MUSIC: The Ease of Musical Immersion

Written by Scott Manning on . Posted in Music

My life is a series of intermittent events. Raise your hand if you feel the same. I haven’t exactly taken a poll on it recently, but I’m fairly certain that, especially for folks my age, it’s a moderately normal occurrence.

One simply has to take a gander at their many friends’ Facebook pictures to see all the random things their college-age friends do: Here’s a one-day trip to Vegas for a night on the town; There’s a couple practicing the waltz for their Dance 180 class — in the middle of the intersection of University and University; And way over there is a guy standing on a skateboard which is on a box which is balanced on a pole while he holds a flaming torch in each hand and meditates. (And no, that last one was not me.) The truth is we all have a bit of “randomosity” in us. My bit of randomness (which is an actual word, unlike “randomosity”), however, seems to be based around one thing, and I bet you can take a wild stab and guess what it is.

Let me tell you a little anecdote from a recent Saturday night. It started with an invite from a lady friend I hadn’t seen and had seldom communicated with in over three months. She invited me to go watch the movie Psycho, which was playing as part of BYU’s International Cinema event for the night. Despite the movie scaring me out of my seat more than a couple times, I felt I retained my manly dignity and kept calm and collected. This allowed me to focus on some of the aspects that make the film such a quintessential experience, especially the music. Everyone knows the beautifully dissonant theme song and the sharp musical inflections that were used at climax points in the movie, whether or not they’ve seen it. (Just think of the “Reee!  Reee!  Reee!” noise you or someone you know had made while stabbing the air with an implied knife.)

I sat there thinking to myself, “Wow, I had no idea that this is where that noise came from…” and loved every minute of the uncanny notes ringing through my ears.  I wondered how Bernard Hermann could have come up with a soundtrack that fits and, in many cases, makes the movie what it is. It was a stellar experience, but despite this, it was not the climax of the evening.

Following the film, we went on a walk down towards Brick Oven where we were planning on sitting at a table and enjoying a nice cup of water while our friends ordered and ate, as both of us were flat broke. As we walked from the Kimball Tower, we heard some music coming from the Joseph Smith Building to our left and ditched the group to investigate. There were balloons and all sorts of party stuff lining the windows of the building. We couldn’t resist satisfying our curiosity and discovering what it was all for; For all I knew, it could have been a renegade custodial crew starting a crazed riot, a pre-season pep rally for the school’s curling team, or even President Samuelson’s big bodacious birthday bash — and I wasn’t about to miss out on that.

We almost turned away when we came closer and saw a big, fat sign emblazoned with some business’s name and a bunch of people dressed in power suits and fancy ties standing around waving their hands and arms about as they spoke in a business-like manner to each other. The music, though, kept drawing us inward and — once we snuck past the sentinels — we made it into the auditorium where a not-so-nondescript band was performing: none other than Ryan Shupe and the RubberBand.

Perhaps you may have heard of them. My friend was a big fan of the band and we stuck around to revel in our discovery. In so doing, we were handsomely rewarded with a bunch of free stuff, including a plastic clapper toy, a giant cookie on a stick and a full-length CD of the band’s music. Afterward, we walked up to the band to have them sign our albums and I got this crazy idea: What if I were to interview them? I asked, they agreed, and I took down the number for drummer Bart Olson to set one up. Needless to say, you’ll be seeing an interview with them sometime in the near future.

My point in bringing all this up is to explain just how easy it is to involve oneself in music. It is literally all around us, and is a part of all of our lives. All we need to do is follow our ears every now and then and we’ll be pleasantly rewarded. If you have a friend that keeps bugging you to go to their shows and you never do, go just once before you decline the offer again. You might actually enjoy it. Pay attention to your own iPod and try to pinpoint just what it is that causes you to like that Coldplay, Taylor Swift or Vanilla Ice song you’ve listened to twenty times in a row. And next time you watch Psycho, try to imagine what it would be like without the eerie music in the background. I bet you’d be on the edge of your seat far less often.

Scott Manning is a music correspondent for Rhombus. He is the first person in the history of the world to somehow relate and/or connect the soundtrack of Psycho to super-Mormon country group Ryan Shupe and the RubberBand. A worthy accomplishment.

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