In my very first memories of music I sat in diapers on the edge of a throw rug, watching my mother play the piano. I distinctly remember her fingers as they compressed those sterling white keys because—to me—they looked like teeth. Mom would spend whole afternoons playing the piano’s teeth and singing song after song after song for me. That’s when I fell in love with music; I was probably two.
From there, the majority of my life has played out to the soundtrack inside of me. And though the sounds of my soul resound in my head, they emanate outward from a place whose location is unknown to even me—from the very core of my being. It is the music from within that wakes me at three in the morning and won’t let me sleep.
While in reality I am a master of no instrument, I can always play the music within me; every note and every instrument is at my disposal. I’ve been known to conduct ten or more symphonies in the early morning hours of waking—and that’s all before I even get into the shower.
When I was in Japan, many stores and apartment lobbies would play concert piano versions of popular western music. Upon hearing just the five notes of a ridiculously sluggish, lounge piano feature, I could immediately identify it as Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”. The connection I have with music also allows me to somehow understand it intuitively, even when I don’t know it.
I used to sing at this bar in Daimyo—a hip part of Fukuoka City—where musicians from all over world would come to play. I was privileged enough to play with many of them, freestyle singing to their improvisations. Many times they’d ask me, “What can you sing?”, “What genre?” I never knew what to say. It was hard to explain why it didn’t matter, but I would tell them: “Do what you like, it doesn’t matter. I can sing anything.”
And the truth about it is that I can. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been out and began singing along with a song on the radio, or over a PA system. Someone would always turn and ask me, “You know this song?” Again, I found it hard to put simply. I’d tell them that I didn’t know the song, but that I just knew what was going to come next, that somehow I could understand the song without actually knowing it.
Music and I are great friends; it’s more than that, though. Music is my first love. It gives me confidence, comforts me, and challenges me. And, it has never abandoned me.
And yet, despite a life-long love affair with music, it still eludes me. I can never quite grasp it completely. There always exists this mysteriousness about it and a determination to never fully be known. I had always been able to sing, but even having taught myself to play guitar and piano, the instruments themselves seem relatively foreign to me—and despite what others may think, I don’t really know what I’m doing. But that’s the physical side of music—it’s not something that makes very much sense to me. Actually, I don’t think of music in that way at all, in the way of physical instruments per say. Music to me is something really indescribable; it’s like trying to describe the color blue to a person born blind.
I use to struggle with this revelation, trying to assess and frame the integrity of my love for music by marks of classical skill. That’s because I don’t really have any. I couldn’t tell you which key was which, or what note I’m playing to save my life, but somehow it’s never mattered much. The truth is that I FEEL music, I dream about it, and I hear it in my head all the time.
Music for me is this greatly unknown thing, much like water or the fabric of space. You can describe these things in the context of our experiences and by way of convention and language, but it does nothing to make either any less enigmatic. But the truth is that, even if it were possible to know such things, I don’t think I REALLY want to know. I don’t want to quantify or qualify the integrity of music’s beauty with theories and exhaustive practice. There’s an endless and incorruptible hope in the unknowing of music. The only thing I was ever able to do is let it flow throw me and keep listening.