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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Power: Open your ears to different musical experiences

I was instantly intrigued by the guitar playing. The fingers of the guitarristas descended down the octave, and the music transformed from high-speed individual note plucking to rhythmic strumming and a flurry of notes all at once.

This past weekend I sat down in my dorm room to listen to a few flamenco CDs I received in the mail from my dad, who was recently on a business trip in Spain. The percussion supporting the guitar was created by hand-clapping called “palmas.”

It followed complex patterns but enhanced the power of the roller-coaster-like rhythms. The melodies were dissonant and unpredictable. It called for a dance party, even if it meant I was dancing by myself.

Flamenco music comes from the Gypsies or “gitanos,” as they are called in Andalusia, Spain. The mysterious and exciting tone of the music is a reflection of the once secretive, isolated and wandering gypsy lifestyle.

Music has an ability to overcome language boundaries. It expresses life experiences too powerful or sensitive for the translation abilities of words. I could not understand the Andalusian dialect the flamenco musicians were singing in, but I could feel the music and get a sense of the vibrant Spanish culture my dad experienced.

Although lyrics may be important to expressing the message of a song, the harmony and rhythm of the instruments allow listeners to relate to and experience the music.

Physical art — like painting, sculpture and photography — and music are alike in that they communicate in ways beyond language. They appeal to the senses and speak to the soul, influencing personal and cultural experiences.

For instance, you are stressed out about a test, but looking at the painting of a tall mighty mountain on your bedroom wall empowers you with strength and confidence. Maybe even a glance at a family photo in your wallet can calm you down and relieve stress.

You can wake up on the wrong side of the bed in the morning, but as soon as you jump in the shower and start singing “ABC,” by Jackson 5, your mood changes and a smile is restored to your face.

The most powerful quality of music is that it unites people. I remember taking the bus home as an elementary-schooler. It was full of big kids and little tykes, most of whom I was afraid of.

But as soon as the song “YMCA,” by the Village People, came on the radio, almost everyone would bounce up in their seats shouting the lyrics and twisting their arms above their heads to shape the four letters. The dancing and singing brought us bus riders together.

Music is more than a collection of different sounds arranged in specific patterns. It is a way to express things beyond words. It influences your attitude and how you think. It unites you with other people, tells stories and can help you understand other cultures, such as flamenco did for me.

Music grows out of a beautiful, powerful experience. You may have found which music nurtures your soul, but if you want new perspectives or to experience a different realm of the world, listen to different genres. Launch an exploration and give your ears sensations from flamenco to hip hop, bluegrass to soul. If you are a musician, pluck, drum or blow on different types of instruments and test out a variety of music styles.

My friend told me, “Music is in the ear of the beholder.” Explore and figure out what it is that makes various beholders groove to different styles and rhythms.

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