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Revelations: What is your song?

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
June 6, 2014 at 1:06 a.m.


A few days ago, I interviewed composer, conductor and Bach Festival artistic director Craig Hella Johnson.

I was already deeply impressed with him before the interview.

I watched his TED Talk on YouTube and researched his background and accomplishments through the years.

He's a captivating and inspiring man. His voice, both speaking and singing, is soothing and calm.

I love that he views life through the lens of music notes and begs others to consider what their song would be if a soundtrack to their life existed.

I love that when he experiences silence, his musical mind hears and composes the music of the scene around him.

I've always been mesmerized by musical folks, especially composers who, I assume, never experience true silence of the mind.

They're always conducting, even when there is no music.

"Music is born from silence and returns to silence," he told me, mentioning during the interview he enjoys quiet time and fights for it.

He also said, and I loved this little confession, that he sometimes sits in silence with other composers and then asks them, "What are you hearing right now?"

Isn't that magical?

I have always wanted to experience music on that level because in a similar way, it's part of me, too.

Since I was about 7 years old, I've written songs.

In my earlier years, I came up with tunes to fit poems I learned, which eventually grew into lyric writing.

When I was 14, I wrote my first complete song with lyrics and a melody, and shortly after started keeping a song journal.

When I was 16, I finally admitted to a friend I was writing music. And about six months later, he convinced me to sing one of my songs aloud.

I remember telling him he had to turn around. He couldn't laugh, and he couldn't look at me while I sang.

He didn't do either, and it was still one of the most vulnerable moments of my teenage life.

I sang in front of audiences many years after that night, performed a few coffeehouse shows and cut a few basement records. I was even offered a record deal way back when, which I turned down to go to college.

But when I look through my song journals, reading the many songs I wrote years ago, they read like excerpts from a diary.

They are the soundtrack of my life: my youth, my transition into adulthood, my transition into spirituality and religious life.

They remind me of all the significant moments and feelings and relationships I experienced the past 20 years - special parts of my life I may have forgotten otherwise had I not added a melody to their existence.

They are my inner song - penned on the broken and smudged pages of old journals.

So although I am nowhere in the ballpark of Hella Johnson's musical knowledge or skill, I love hearing how others enjoy and bring to life their inner music.

As he says in the TED Talk, everyone has a song.

So, I hope this week you'll take a few moments to find your silence.

And then, I hope you'll allow your mind to start playing your song.

Jennifer Preyss is the faith editor for the Victoria Advocate. You can reach her at 361-580-6535, jlpreyss@vicad or on Twitter @jenniferpreyss.

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