Thursday, February 3, 2011

Mystery + Intensity + Power + Discovery = Music

I just finished watching August Rush with my family; that movie always leaves me feeling inspired. So I thought I would forgo the whole going to bed thing so that I could jot down some of my thoughts. (Besides, there's no falling asleep once my brain hits thinking mode.)

I remember walking out of the dollar theater after seeing August Rush for the first time. We were all unusually quiet; the only people unaffected by the . . . intensity . . . of the movie were Jeremy and Tyrel, neither of whom seemed to think the movie was worth the 50 cents it cost to see it.

The rest of us, however, were having a hard time putting our feelings and thoughts into words.

I've always thought that it must be incredibly intimidating to write the score for a movie about music; for example, The Phantom of the Opera just wouldn't work if the music was simply ordinary--movies like that need music that is truly extraordinary. It is the most crucial element of the story, and without it, the story would fall flat.

The music in August Rush didn't seem extraordinary to me, at least not at first. It didn't have the excitement of John Williams' music or the sing-along-ableness of Alank Menken. It was simply . . . cool, but also a little bit weird. I didn't quite know what to make of it.

Don't get me wrong--I loved the rock/Bach combinations and the way Evan was able to pull music out of the sounds of the streets. And the music certainly was hauntingly beautiful. But still, it left me feeling a little bit unsettled (in a good way), and I couldn't quite put my finger on why.

But today I realized something about the music of this powerful movie. Music, to put it simply, is a mystery; no one can explain why it affects us the way it does, or why it can say things that words can't. The music of August Rush captures that mystery perfectly. It may seem different, even eerie, at times, but within the notes and chord lies a mystery waiting to be discovered.

Kimberly and I have been asked to speak in sacrament meeting in a few weeks, and can you guess what our topic is? Yep--music. We are pretty much the music council of our ward, so it'll surprise no one when we get up there and say, "Today, we were asked to speak about music . . ." However, I've been having a hard time pulling a talk together (the fact that I still have 2 weeks to write it has nothing to do with that . . .). I am more passionate about music than I am about almost anything else, but dedicating 15 or so minutes of sacrament meeting time to what I have to say about music seems like an impossible task. Because music is everywhere--I might as well give a talk about air or something--and it's impossible to know even where to begin or what to focus my time on. As Evan tells everyone who will listen (and even those who don't), the music is all around us, and it does speak to us. It is hard to explain that to someone who doesn't understand the incredible power that music is. Words cannot describe what music is. That is why I haven't tried to blog about music before.

But in August Rush, the producers get a step closer to showing what music really is, and I don't think I've ever seen anyone make it to that step before. Evan has a special gift. That gift wasn't his ability to pick up an instrument and master it in one day, as remarkable as that is. His gift was his ability to capture the mystery, the vast everywhere-ness, of music in his playing and writing. In the rhapsody at the end of the movie, we hear all sorts of sounds that you wouldn't think would go together, but that combine to showcase the unique power that music is. In essense, he captures music in his music, and what better way to describe music than through music itself?

And let me just add a quick word on the sheer brilliance of this movie. All of the characters feel the pull of Evan's music, and in the end it brings them all together. A lot of people complained that the ending was disappointing, but I don't see how it could have been better. As much as I would have loved to see Lyla and Louis (sp?) kiss and see Evan jump off the stage into his parents' arms, the intensity of the moment would have been ruined by such a wonderfully cheesy display of emotion. Instead, we see Evan's face light up with childlike faith and wonder while the parents look on with eyes full of understanding--and the intensity of the moment, capped off by the last few notes of the rhapsody--leaves you almost stunned into silence.

And that's the kind of emotion that makes a good movie.

Music is all around us--it's in the air coming through my rusty vent, in the sound of my fingernails clicking against my keyboard, in the banging of Shannan's nightly dancing (right above me, might I add). As Evan says, all we have to do is listen, and the music will speak to us.

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