Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By: Caleb Park

Music is a noun. Here’s what Google says about music: “vocal or instrumental sounds (or both) combined in such a way as to produce beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion.” So obviously, it doesn’t really make sense for me to use this word as a verb in my title. But I propose that we make music (not musicalize) to be a verb. I think it best describes my journey with music.

From a young age, my father always liked playing music in the car. Instead of the radio, he liked to play jazz and even play the pregnancy music that he used to turn on when my mom was still pregnant with me. When my mom was the one driving, she always made sure to turn on the classical music radio. I don’t remember whether I liked it or not but what I can definitely say for sure is that music was quite literally embedded in my ears from a young age.

My mom signed me up for piano lessons when I was around 5. I hated it. There was always pressure to continue practicing and I was never able to play the songs that I wanted to play. It was only near the end of my time doing lessons that I was able to learn around 3-4 songs that I truly liked on the piano. The rest of the time was spent preparing for NYSSMA. I quit after 10 years, having finished every NYSSMA level and having grown tired of classical music.

In fifth grade, I chose to start learning an instrument of my own will: tenor saxophone. Tenor was bigger, which immediately meant cooler in my small fifth grade brain. I learned from Dr. Archer, a lighthearted but extremely talented teacher who was also the band director of one of the best middle school band programs in my district: M.S. 74. I was able to unofficially join my middle school’s band program, joined a Saturday band program in both middle school and high school, and am still playing tenor saxophone in Symphonic Band here at Stuy and currently in Sing Band.

However, one thing I want to note here is that with both instruments, I never truly enjoyed it to the point that I went out of my way to study it in my spare time. Then the guitar came along.

My church’s youth group (middle school and high school) had a praise team, which my older cousin was a part of at the time. I was in seventh grade, and I was absolutely inspired by the cohesiveness and harmonic beauty of the praise team. Since my cousin played the drums, I also had a desire to play the drums. But when I officially joined the team, I found myself being forced to learn guitar.

Guitar was the last instrument I imagined playing. It hurt my fingers, there already was a guitarist in the team (the leader), and it looked disgustingly hard. But in a desperate attempt to stay in the team, I pushed through and tried to learn as much as I could. Before I knew it, I was starting to enjoy playing guitar in my free time, MUCH MUCH more than I expected. After getting bored of playing praise songs on guitar all the time, I shifted gears to learning songs that I personally listened to. I still clearly remember trying to learn “Wi ing Wi ing” by Hyukoh (위잉위잉 – 혁오). That’s when I realized the power of guitar — almost every single song that I listened to had guitar in it. It was mind blowing,

My next guitar discovery came in the form of Sam Kim. I absolutely idolize Sam Kim. His guitar is so unique and alluring. Around my first to second year with guitar, I did all I could to copy Sam Kim’s style, so much so that now, anyone who knows Sam Kim will hear my guitar playing and immediately connect the dots. And as time passed on, I tackled many songs by many different artists — Dean, Crush, IU, and so, so much more.

As I racked up experience, I naturally taught myself music theory, figuring out things on my own and delighting when I realized that it’s an existing concept that I had figured out. I developed relative pitch, enough for me to listen to most songs and immediately tell what chords are being played and figure out individual notes and melodies.

Now I do understand that I talked more about my history with music rather than why I do it. George Orwell gave four clear reasons why he writes. However, I just want to give one reason that hopefully ties everything together.

Music is fresh. There’s always something out there that I don’t know about, whether it’s an actual instrument, or a musical concept, or just a song. Music is being made as we speak. Music is heard all around us in even the most mundane things. People are discovering new things about sounds and music every single day. I swear that barely anyone knew that speeding up a 2:3:4:5:6 polyrhythm creates a major chord before Jacob Collier impressively showed it off with a smug smile. It’s new. It’s fresh. It’s timeless.

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