The Role of Music

On the days when I’m not outside making photos or traveling I can be found working from home on the more mundane tasks of photography. Yesterday I was revamping the galleries on my website. When I get bored of that (usually after about five minutes) I’ll surf YouTube for interesting videos of any of my favorite bands (I can procrastinate with the best of them). As much as I enjoy photography, I would give anything to play an instrument well.

I didn’t discover my passion for landscape photography until my mid-twenties, and I’ve wondered if there were indications early on of where my life would eventually lead. Interestingly, the signs came from music rather than photography. Music has always played an important role in my life, even though my knowledge of it is rudimentary and I don’t play an instrument. Throughout adolescence and my teen years it was my escape, my solace. I would spend hours each week lying on my bed listening, usually intently, to my favorite bands. It was also a shared bond between my best friend (bgfay.com)and me that exists to this day. We were not casual listeners. We would (and still do) discuss the finer details of the songs, the nuances, their meaning, etc. We both wish we had a formal education in music so we could more fully appreciate the complexities.

What we listened to was not typical of boys our age. It took time to learn to appreciate the bands and musicians we came to love. The music was usually complex, sometimes overtly and other times in more subtle ways. And almost always rich in emotion and feeling. It was intelligent, creative, and original. I didn’t realize it at the time but it was an early indication of who I was becoming as a person, my sensibilities. It was a sign of the qualities I valued in life and would later seek to express in my own creative endeavors.

I’m certain I am not the first to notice a connection between creative mediums. Prior to dedicating his life to photography Ansel Adams was a very talented pianist. It has been said that his musical training deeply colored and influenced his photography. Parallels were drawn between the subtle tones in his prints and the phrasing of notes played on the piano. Paul Caponigro is another example, having enrolled at Boston university’s College of Music. While I am in no way equating my experience with theirs, I can say that my tastes in music and the qualities I look for are reflected in my own creative work. Even though music moves me in a way no photograph ever has, photography is the medium for which I am best suited to express and learn about myself.

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4 thoughts on “The Role of Music”

  1. Interesting read Chris. I’m not too knowledgeable about music either. But there is definitely something mysterious and beautiful about how we respond to music. I do not have that connection you have with music that you express someway in your photography. I’ve read about other photographers’ similar experiences and I find that truly fascinating. The connection I have with music, within the limited taste and knowledge I hold of it, is when I’m photographing and editing images. With this I mean that when I listen to artists I really like (Ryan Taubert, Dexter Britain, Bradford Nyght, Kerry Muzzey, Tony Anderson, Jordan Critz, among others modern classical music artists) either making images or editing them, emotions amplify so much. This music intensify the feelings I experience when I find myself in nature or they transport me back to those emotional experiences in nature when I do editing. It’s maybe similar to you but in a different realm?

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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  2. I get some odd looks when I say that I write to the sounds of music. Some of it is instrumental (Pat Metheny, Brad Mehldau, The Bad Plus, Dave Brubeck, Paul Desmond, Jim Hall, and on and on) but a lot of it has lyrics. I was just writing to Neil Young and before him a solo album from Chris Squire who played bass in Yes. The music is too important not to have on while I write. It pushes me, gives me an internal rhythm that plays out in the words on the page. More than that, like Chris said here, the music shaped who I am and am trying to become as an artisan. It conditioned me, taught me, molded me, and continues to do all those things.

    It’s difficult for me to understand people who aren’t so involved with music though I know only a few others who worship at the altar as Chris and I do.

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