Monday, November 24, 2014

Ever Wonder....

What makes a song interesting, so interesting that it becomes a classic? That thought came to mind the other evening when I was working and listening to my shuffle on iTunes. The Johnny Cash song, "Ring of Fire" popped up and I found my attention taken away from what I was doing listening to the song and humming quietly (I was at the local Caribou Coffee). As I tapped my toe and let the music do its thing on my brain chemicals I noticed something that I had heard before but never struck me as part of the song's power and endurance.

As the words go

  • "I fell into a burning ring of fire" the music line goes UP the scale, not down. 
  • "I went down, down, down" floats over the same RISING line. 
  • "And the flames went higher" then takes the music down the scale.
It is almost irresistible. Somewhere in the recesses of our brain where music is a primal occurrence, the dissonance between the words and music lines makes an impact. Even if we don't know why, we are caught by the music.

It is a very simple song with just enough complexity and cognitive dissonance to make a difference. It isn't in the fine execution of the song or any profound sentiment. It is a raw song that nonetheless does more than just entertain us. It changes us in some inner way.

I don't, of course, sit and analyze all the music that comes through my headphones when I am working. Many times I am almost oblivious to what's happening there. But when something grabs my attention as quickly and powerfully as Ring of Fire I realize something is interesting about it.

Perhaps this is mindfulness at another level. When something grabs our attention away from something important, then something is working in the pre-conscious or unconscious levels of our brains.

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