Written by Maria Ekaterina

Photos by Roger Gupta

Photo by Roger Gupta – Jam Cruise Party January, 2020

I was recently asked to submit one of my already written or newly created word pieces to Floyd Center for the Arts located in Floyd, Virginia. I was asked just before isolation, loss of jobs and a whole new world of unknown became my shared reality. Subject matter regarding my entry focused on one big question: “what is music?” I had some time to think about how I would define something so wide range.

Music is the magic of life to me. Music helps me express altruism amidst our changing opinions and perspectives. Music is its own reviving isolation in a world of choice and our own reason.

In the past couple of years, I encountered a wide array of music in all pools of genres that resonate within me depending on my mood. One of my long time secret pleasures is listening to Black Violin who play classical instruments, with underlying hip hop beats in songs like “A Flat”. Ranging from highs to lows and catching everything in between, their gentle lyrics swirl into a frosty and refreshing tune of relaxation and excitement. 

Photo by Roger Gupta / Khruangbin at Lockn’ Festival 2019

When I have a little anxiety attack I listen to something soothing and well tempered like Khruangbin band song “Como Me Quieres”. Isolation, especially today, can make some feel crazy and for the most part, we’re trying to avoid making drastic changes to ourselves in today’s drastically changing world. For example, cutting bangs, shaving off eyebrows and for some, resorting to finding comfort in food day in and day out.

Music is a strong anchor for our emotions, to let go of what’s troubling us and for us to find a way forward in our wavering ocean of emotions. During this pandemic where mandatory separation is what could save us humans from dying while minimizing the spread, music seems to be a safe place to turn to. Creating or listening is equally important and equally relaxing. Traveling musicians are significantly changing their ability to make ends meet financially due to shows being cancelled and festivals being rescheduled.

As we have so many times packed up our cars, kissed our furry babies good bye for a few days and set sail to finding new and exciting music to add to our playlist; we can still do some of that from the comfort of our home. Without leaving our furry babies for a weekend, we can tune into the multitude of live streams online from musicians big and small. Facebook groups like “Viral Music” formed to help struggling, up and coming musicians spread their music and connect us with music we may not have heard or seen before directly in real time. Keeping up and not missing a show is nearly impossible as new shows and schedules come out daily. It is nice to know if anyone wanted to tune into some great local up and coming artists, they can just join one of these groups and have a full news feed of music they can listen to.

Here at home or worldwide music keeps our morality moving. In Italy, neighborhoods sang “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic while people were playing pianos, organs, guitars as the song bounced amids the tight cobblestone streets. Echoes of cheer and hope rang amids the soothing notes of the song. People are brought together through music which highlights and embodies generations of moral perspectives. For the foreseeable future, events all over the country are being cancelled and we’re urged to stay at home for our safety and for the safety of our medical experts who are overworked during these highly demanding times. Families are gathering more often over simple pleasures like movies, dinners and sometimes making music. 

Photo by Roger Gupta / Freekbass at 5 Points Music Sanctuary in Roanoke, Va

Between it’s notes and melodic intricacies of time, music has unexplained beauty, deep unworded emotions and realities we’re too afraid to say ourselves. Music can be heard by the hearing impared and seen by those visually impared. In Roanoke, Virginia Tyler Godsley runs a venue called 5 Points Music Sanctuary. Tyler founded 5 Points Music Sanctuary in 2017 with a mission of bringing music to everyone. Part of his mission and vision includes creating full access concert experiences for those with hearing loss. He has a personal connection to this mission as two of his kids were blessed with the gift of hearing after their birth via hearing aids. They were able to hear their mom tell them “I love you” and enjoy the joyous vibrations of this universe. For those who can’t see the strings being strung and piano keys being played are able to envision their own reality without being able to see a single note being played due to their visually impared limitations. Wholesome music can bring joy and ambient serenity to our lives. Music reaches us on our trying and highest celebrated days of our life and carries through to the light during our deepest darkest days.

Photo by Roger Gupta / The Revivalists at Lockn’ Festival 2019

Music can also be a great way for us to stay motivated during highly active states of our lives. When I want to work out, hula hoop or just take a marking mile walk, I like to tune into something with high beats and somewhat motivational lyrics. For my warmup I enjoy putting on The Revivalists “All My Friends” that starts slow but quickly bounces into a steady pace beat. When I feel frustrated, I crank up some Nicki Minaj or Eminem to get through some high tides of anger and frustration instead of letting that high powered energy release on those around me. I often think about world wide famous quotes as originally stated by Bob Marley:

“One thing about music, when it hits you feel no pain.”

Mr. Marley summarized music during his time, in such a timeless way that still rings true today. There is a large group of people who have felt some type of pain, whether it’s physical, mental or just a state of anxiety and frustration in how their future will turn out. People are losing their jobs, having difficulties with unemployment and going through a wide spectrum of emotional turmoil. Looking back at last summer and thinking about how much traveling my husband Roger and I did, it’s a little strange to think we may not be able to leave our house, let alone state for a few months.

However, just because we are unable to travel at this time, does not mean we lost all the memories we made while we were able to see great music all over the world. Thinking back to putting on a playlist of everything from rock to instrumental helped us on the journey there and back home. Music sets the stage for a great time, healing and a way to move forward. Music evolves through time and space while leaving it’s mind altering mark on generations to come. 

Photo by Roger Gupta / Rooster Walk

While music gives us more than I could describe, I wanted to also focus on what are we missing out on while things are being put on hold. We hold tight to those summers where the grass is greenest under our feet, laying out under a shady tree listening to music echoing throughout grounds or passing the afternoon by cuddled up in a hammock tree resting our bones for the night to come. My husband and I have so many treasured memories of our adventures from Mad Tea Party, Rooster Walk to Big What, Lockn’ Festival, Front Porch Fest, Resonance, Mountain Music Festival to name a few. We think about the breathtaking sunsets we watched on our way back home from a weekend of great music, shaking our bones and getting plenty of fresh air and festival food. These memories don’t fade away, especially not when Roger Gupta has captured so many of these moments through his lense and gifted us the gift of memory for us and those who follow.

Photo by Roger Gupta / Front Porch Fest 2018

While we wait and reminisce the amazing memories we made while we had the time to do, we are reminded of music, all music, being a vital necessity for our human existence. In the United States we have a song for almost anything and when we can’t find one – we make one up! That’s the beauty of music, it doesn’t just leave our minds and bodies once we hear a song. It inspires us to make more, music, art, movement and so much more. Music stays with us as if it’s generating its own life within us to keep us moving forward one beat at a time. We will rage again in time, we will feel sunshine and hear loud music and we know it’ll be better than ever before being back together sooner or later.

In the meantime, think about what music means to you. To me, it’s the heartbeat of life. Create a new song in your living room with your family. I like to dance while I’m playing some 80’s rock music while making pancakes on a Saturday morning in the kitchen with my husband Roger. Make some memories whether you’re going through this alone, or with a strong supportive family surrounding you. Listen to the marvelous sounds of nature. The birds, the winds and even the rain all carry songs of their own. We are all in this together, and music has always found a way to speak to us and for us find a way to listen. I suggest taking this time to listen to full albums you’ve only heard a song or two from. Think about listening to full sets you missed while deciding what stage to go to last summer. Find a new artists who’s going to be your reason for catching a live show once we’re on the other side.