I was on one of my spontaneous treks downtown, with my earbuds in and the surrounding world asleep.
It was late at night — or early in the morning — a time when my suburban roommate would tell me how crazy I am for walking fearlessly through the city alone.
As I entered Center City, the “Rocky” theme song began playing on my Spotify shuffle as if by fate. I swiftly hastened into a jog, the adrenaline surged through my tired body. The music was no longer just notes, but an inspirational harmony urging me to keep moving.
In that moment, I couldn’t help but wonder, “What is it about music that touches the soul?”
Maybe it’s in the stories that lyrics bring to life. Perhaps it’s the memories we associate with certain melodies.
For me, the power of music connects me to memories and emotions like nothing else can.
I remember being a little boy and finally getting piano lessons after envying my older sisters’ musical talent for years. Learning to play my first song was a huge accomplishment.
The piano of my childhood went to my sister’s house when I got older. But this year, I moved into my own house off campus — and the piano came along with me. Sometimes when I sit down to play the old piano, I flash back to memories of my younger self trying to impress guests at my house with the hardest songs I knew.
I remember all the times I came down the stairs to hear Indian gospel singer Freddy Joseph playing in the background. When my parents immigrated to America, they left parts of their Indian culture behind. But oftentimes when my mom cooked, she turned on the music of the singer whose lyrics are in Tamil, my parents’ native language, to bring her closer to home.
I understood some words better than others, but that music will always remind me of home and happy evenings filled with Joseph’s unique voice, stirring melodies and intricate instrumentation.
You can’t find Joseph’s music on Spotify, but every now and then I’ll go on YouTube and hear his songs just to experience some nostalgia and closeness to my family and culture.
I remember when I first fell in love with musical scores, a passion that is still part of me today. When I heard the iconic “The Battle” from “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” as a child, I felt like hope would live on in even the most dire circumstances.
I marveled at the enchanting beauty of “A Narnia Lullaby.” I awed at the solemnly subtle music in the “Raiders of the Lost Ark” map room scene and the haunting strains as Frodo Baggins marched the ring to Mordor. I am entranced by the beautiful violin solos found in the movies “Schindler’s List” and “The Village.” And as a Philadelphian, I get pumped to the epic “Rocky” theme songs, which breathe life into the story of the ultimate underdog.
“Where words fail, music speaks,” 19th-century Danish author Hans Christian Andersen wrote.
Music touches human emotions that are untouchable by language. It is truly universal. I hope I never stop uncovering its translations as I move through life.