Less More, Please

I love music and always have. Since I was ten my life pretty much rotated around it. Back when we started We Are Mammoth, though, I almost entirely quit listening to it. Somehow music as an outlet was tapped. I didn’t have new leads on great tunes. I’d lost interest in the backlog of works and artists I knew. The entire art form seemed to have plateaued for me.

The words, patterns, and impressions of all the music I’d been listening to no longer seemed welcome. I tripped over the songs as I traversed my new experiences building a business and a family. For someone so devoted to music, this felt foreign, like I’d lost my sense of smell. Music and I somehow parted ways.

The piano man

Then one day, when Mike, Ka Wai and I were plugging away in our 600 square foot office with slanted floors, I streamed some tunes from a jazz pianist named Tommy Flanagan. I was never into jazz. Even while attending a music college esteemed for its jazz program. Something about it hooked me, though.

The piano seeped into the dried cracks in my mind. The lack of pop-music cadence kept me listening and following. No words, just this guy’s fingers traveling up and down a keyboard. Every key tap unexpected and refreshing.

Over the next few years, jazz warmed me up to music again. It accompanied me through a creation phase in my life. It was on the margin, assisting, not bossing me around. It was almost listening to me, rather than me doing the listening.

I know now it was the lack of words. I had enough language in my mind at the time. Actionscript, PHP, HTML, business agreements, C#, goo-goo-ga-gas. I didn’t need an artist whining at me through my headphones. Jazz music, piano in particular, was just fine with that. It laid the road under the tires in my mind, instead of driving right through my head.

Running in place

In early 2012, I started running. Nowhere in particular. A few miles here and there. After a little more than a year, I welcome it like I welcomed jazz 6 years ago. It accompanies me early in the morning as I get my day out of bed. It wasn’t always so.

When I began, I wired myself up to my iPhone. I had a GPS app tracking my distance and speed. I had music gunning through my earbuds insulating me from the streets and paths I was running on. I could stop, catch my breath, check my magnificent email. I’d get exhausted. The music, regardless of genre, stole too much of my focus. The lady’s voice from my GPS app would do the same. My emails would boil up my work nerves.

So, one day I left my iPhone at home. As I ran my heart, breathing, and footsteps seemed to fall instantly into sync. I could withdrawal into my breath, comprehending the distance only one step at a time. Running quickly become a kind of music to my morning. It’s my runway.

You say hello, I say goodbye.

The singular role that music once played for me is no longer there. It’s been joined by a wife, children, businesses, employees, running, and a world outside my earbuds. I know it will always be there. I realize now though that like many things in life, it’s ok to welcome music when it’s here as much as it is to welcome the time that it leaves. There is other composition in life to listen to while it’s gone. Less has become more.