Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes


Life is music that must be performed

Posted on April 22, 2017 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated April 23, 2017 – 12:00am

There are many ways to describe life. We can be optimistic, pessimistic, didactic, light, heavy, etc. We can see it as happy, sad, crazy, profound. It is full of trials, or maybe abundant with blessings, a cup that is full, or empty. Life is a test, a challenge. Life can feel like a roll of the dice. It seems very random and meaningless. But no! To some, life is full of meaning. Some will say life is predetermined.

There is no limit to what we can say about life. There are as many opinions about it as there are people on earth. And everyone will probably be changing their assessment and description of life many times in their lifetime.

I would like to use the metaphor of the world of music to describe what life may be.
Life is music that must be performed. You are born with an audience waiting for you to do your thing. It may take you many years to write a song to express who you are, and practice it and hopefully be good at it. But be reassured (or terrified) that you have a slot in the program of life. It is already there waiting for you. It may not even be just one song or performance that will be required of you. It may be many.

The song that you will write and perform is something you will decide for yourself. Inspiration will come from all your experiences. Your background and upbringing will determine the style, the genre, mood and theme of what you will write.

So be prepared. Anything goes. Who knows? You may be called to write, say, a jazz piece.

If that is the musical performance you will do, know that you will be required to be “in the moment” and express yourself spontaneously. You will write and perform as you go along. You will make on-the-spot decisions on what notes to play, given the key, progression or flow that is life at the moment.

You will need to be totally immersed, concentrated and in full awareness as you ad-lib your way through the performance. It will demand that you come from everything you know in theory and things you’ve learned from practical living. You will be required to approach the piece with a boldness and audacity to risk and trust that you are making sense. And as you play, you will come from creativity, joy and lightness.

Or you could be playing classical music. You trained long and hard for this as a pianist. You may have memorized every note and have learned all the nuances of every part of the piece. You have practiced every day for years. You’ve put in so many hours for this that you can play it without the music charts in front of you. You have listened to the best classical performers playing this piece and through your mentors you have learned to come up with your own take on it. You have mastered the balance of technique and emotions. You are very ready. Hopefully all the players in the orchestra are ready as well.

You are performing at a venue with a reputation for showcasing the best talents. You are a bit nervous but you are confident that you will do well. Your name has been introduced. You march in to applause and you sit on the piano chair and begin.

You could be a famous pop artist. You’ve played countless gigs everywhere. You’ve experienced small and large venues, met hundreds and thousands of people, sold a lot of records. You’ve earned your chops and managed to be “in the zone” during most performances. Good for you. You know hundreds of songs and from experience you know which hit song to sing that will wow a crowd.

While it took years of hardship playing gigs wherein the audience was oblivious to what you played, you now enjoy the attention and respect of a large fan base that fanatically supports you. Everything you do is appreciated and wildly applauded.

Or you could be a new artist on the make. Sometimes, the venue is not that great, and the gig is not a big one. It may not even be prestigious. It could be a small venue or even a begging job singing on the street with your guitar case open for tips and donations.

But hey, there is still an audience, however small, to play for, thank God. You will still play your heart out. You live for those who stick around long enough to watch you sing a song or two, or three, and leave something.
You trust that someone out there could be listening very intently and is inspired at what he/she is listening to. To that person, your performance matters a lot. You are touching their heartstrings and bringing them to a state of beauty and aesthetics that brightens their boring lives. Just for that, you give it all you’ve got.

In this metaphor of life as musical performance, what is clear is that somehow, you will be called to show your talent and you must play the music that makes sense to you the most. Your performance is your moment of truth sharing.

But whatever metaphor you use, it is clear that the biggest requirement of life is it must be lived. I am not trying to trivialize it. You must show up for life because if you don’t, there is no life to talk about. Nothing happens.

And because you do show up, other people will be affected in some way by your presence. Hopefully, the effect is something that will enrich them in many ways. So show up for that slot that is there for you. And play the most beautiful, richest music that you have made. Write and learn a lot of songs. Perform them to the best of you abilities. That is the meaning of life!

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