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The door at the end of the hall

| Monday, April 15, 2019

Why doesn’t life have a soundtrack?

This might seem like an ambiguous question to ponder, but it is one that I often think about. If life is a story, and music is one of the things that defines the human story in no other way, then why doesn’t life have music set to it? This inquiry is not to take away from the human capacity for music. This capacity is something that is so wonderful, beautiful and terrifying in its mystery. It is also inescapable. There is, of course, the music of humanity that separates us from any other living thing. And yet, it would be ludicrous to claim monopoly over music when there is song among creatures of biology and even among the stars. But if I had to pick something that makes us fundamentally human and defines meaning in a way that I cannot put into words, I would choose music any day.

I am a firm believer that there is a different symphony running through our head as we grow and change. I have passed through soundtracks defined by the chords of rhythm and blues, periods of upheaval and loss marked by trap remixes and Israeli music when I have felt like a vagabond cursed to roam in the desert forever.

And yet, music frightens me. It is a door at the end of a darkened hall with a single beam of golden light clawing its way toward me from underneath the frame. I have an acoustic guitar back home, and I cannot tell you how many times I have stared at it without touching it. It is not necessarily that I was afraid of frets and strings and wood. I was scared because it was the key to that door at the end of the hall.

Music is, of course, inescapable in our culture, but imagine a world where the door was open at all times, and you could hear and engage with your symphony without headphones. There would be a song for every mood, for every moment, so subtle you would miss it if you didn’t listen, but so close it would define you in ways that words cannot. Songs by The Weeknd and Nirvana would walk with you on your melancholic days, when drops of anger pelt you like puddles of rain on the quad. “Illusion” by Zedd would sing you to sleep in moments of heartbreak. “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” would jump with you in your moments of ecstasy. Tiesto and Imagine Dragons would hold you up when you feel like you’re about to stumble.

Music can do more and holds more than the superficiality and impossibility of words, and each soundtrack would not have to be a completely separate creation. One could pass to and from the soundtracks of others if they wished in such a world. There would not be a cacophony of sounds competing for room on the freeway, and all of the sounds and songs of each individual would be a perfectly balanced formation. I saw an intriguing girl studying in the library the other day and how I would have enjoyed hearing the songs that played in her head. I could say hello to her with the wafting waves of Mozart and Prokofiev or something a bit more down to earth like the Chainsmokers. Music is the gateway to the soul, and I simply cannot imagine a world without it.

I can say, and I know that I am not alone when I do, that music fills a sort of indescribable place inside that nothing else does when my headphones come off. There are times when I do not want to turn my music off because I do not know who I will become when it turns off. I hear songs in my head all the time, some written by others and some not, but I envision a day and age when I will take my headphones off, and I will keep hearing the music. But dream and dream as hard as I can, there will never be a day when the music of reality is anything more than footsteps, the scratch of a pencil, the sound of keys.

And maybe that’s okay. To say that life should have a soundtrack is a statement that life is a movie where we are the main character. I do not think that this is the case. Music is my escape, my inspiration, my weakness, and whatever it means to you it should stay that way. Separate. A hidden lagoon that we have discovered where we can walk at nightfall. And to plea for life to have a soundtrack is missing a fundamental aspect of the human experience. Because whether you live in a cityscape where skyscrapers and neon lights are your canvas or a desert filled with mountains and stars, no matter who you are or what your story is, we make our music simply by living.

But until then, I will leave my headphones on and keep dreaming.


Gabriel Niforatos is a sophomore who has diverse interests ranging from political science to music. When he’s not at school, he is busy hiking and running in the New Mexico mountain range. His email is [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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