08/30/2012 09:13 am ET Updated Oct 30, 2012

The Musical Horizon

There is nothing more powerful than a well-crafted song. When I listen to music, each instrument breaks apart in front of my eyes like the players of a sports team fanning out on a field. I hear every drum beat, every guitar stroke, every note of the melody, and more importantly, their relationships to all the other notes and rhythms happening simultaneously. When I walk away from a song, I understand it like a true friend because I have explored all its deepest nooks and crannies.

Music has always seemed to me like the truest form of art because it takes on a life of its own. It grows, spreads, and molds to each listener. Every person will take away a unique meaning from music, and although 10 people can hear the same song, each one walks away with a different version implanted in their mind. As a record spins and the needle bobs up and down over the ridged landscape, the human mind forms an opinion about it, and each person uses their own personal rubric to judge with. I play in a band, and I sometimes think about the fact that had we not put a particular chord progression together with a certain melody and drum beat and added a harmony as well, then that combination of notes probably would never have existed. And if we never had the opportunity to play those songs for other people, which we are fortunate to do frequently, then no one else would know they existed either. So, here is the most daunting part about being a musician: If other people hear your music, they will walk away with a meaning and it may not be the meaning you intended. Yet you cannot be afraid to share your music because communicating an emotion you hope others can connect to is, in fact, the main reason music is created in the first place; music is meant to be heard, after all.

I have not always been comfortable with the risk of doing something that might be seen as putting myself out there in the open to be judged. In music class freshman year, the teacher told us we could listen to music with our headphones on for 10 minutes. My peers buddied up to share headphones with a friend while I, a shy freshman, given the chance to have a private moment with my real love, music, quietly moved to sit by myself. The song I decided to listen to was "Morning Light" by GIRLS. With the click of a button, the fuzz of the guitars filled my headphones and each inch of my brain. There was suddenly no one around me, the buzz of high school faded away and was replaced by the climbing adrenaline emanating from the ear buds and reverberating through my skull. Next thing I knew my head was on the desk, resting in my hands, as I drifted into the inner depths of the song, a deep place that was my sanctuary. I felt a prickling on the back of my neck. The repetitive nature of the song pulled me deep until it ended, too soon as always, and I looked up to find the whole room starring at me. I quickly sat up and realized that tingling feeling had not been produced by Christopher Owen's haunting voice, but the heat of their piercing stares upon the hairs on the back of my neck.

I was mortified. I had let my peers see a side of myself that I had always kept a secret. I can imagine them seeing my mind pick apart the song, each instrument popping to the front of my conscience and then slowly sliding back into place again, over my head like the contents of a cartoon thought bubble. The feeling that I associate with this moment from freshman year resurfaces every time I think about someone listening to one of my band's songs: the feeling that something I care about and crammed so much emotion into could be tossed aside after just one listen. But that is the risk any musician has to take. There is no way of knowing how people are going to react if you don't put it out there in the first place. My dream is that one day someone will pick apart a song I write with the same amount of care as I do when I listen to a song I love.