Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Awakening

I picked up the new Melissa Etheridge album, The Awakening. In the booklet, after sharing a bit about her battle with cancer and chemotherapy and the stillness and spiritual journey it forced upon her, she wrote, "If you are able, I hope you would take an hour out of your day, be still, and listen to this album from beginning to end." And I thought I would try to honor the wishes of the artist, so I set the album aside until I had time and inclination to be still.

It sat for quite a while.

Finally I decided I was going to listen to it anyway, even if I couldn't be still to do it. So I put it in while I cooked and ate dinner tonight. By the third song, I was in tears. When I finished my meal, I went and lay on the couch until the album was finished, just listening.

These are songs of power. They are distinct and individual works, but they also comprise a cohesive whole. A few short interludes, like brief refrains that have strayed away from their songs and made their own way into the world, serve as punctuation between the sections of the album. The album is haunting, full of pain and sorrow. It is also full of hope, compassion, and peace. This is the kind of music that can churn the sediment at the bottom of your soul and dredge it to the surface, where the light can burn it away.

If you listen to music to cheer you up, this album is not for you. If you listen to music to feed your sorrow or your rage, this is not for you either. If you just want your music to be a background distraction, this is definitely not for you. (Not that there's anything wrong with using music in any of those ways. I routinely use music for all those things.) But if you want music you must sit down and experience, that demands the same focus and thoughtful attention as reading a novel or studying a great painting, then give The Awakening a listen.

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