The Last Thing I Loved: My Lack of Musical Talent

Image by Tomáš Weiss.

Red Dot shares her love of musicians and her fascination with the process of creating and composing music.

There is something insanely attractive about musicians. You can deny it all you want, but just like the earth is spinning around the sun, it’s a fact. At least, for me it is. Doesn’t everybody think the same way?

All those bands and gorgeous singers have their spots on big posters and in the media for a reason. Michael Jackson, Kurt Cobain, and Elton John are all names that represent music itself because the people who carried them to stardom felt, breathed, and created it.

When you see a guitarist’s callused fingers tugging gently on the strings, or a drummer slamming the sticks down on the skin of his drums with force comparable to Thor wielding his hammer, the hairs on your arms stand up, and your heartbeat desperately tries to catch up to the song. That’s how intensely your body alerts you to something that’s so goddamn cool.

There is no doubt that music is an art form. It always welcomes you and locks you in its rhythm; it makes you feel a part of it simply by listening to it. Be it a curse or a blessing, however, not everybody can create it.

Personally, I sure as hell can’t. Six years of guitar lessons didn’t make me the next Jimi Hendrix; it didn’t even make me an occasional bonfire player, or even a person who has her guitar merely displayed on a wall. No, my guitar is at my parents’ house collecting dust, and I keep it a secret because I’m not confident I can even hold it correctly anymore.

So, where is the mistake? What happened that pulled me away from the spotlight? My family supported me to learn to play some instrument. My teacher was the nicest, most patient man you could wish for, and I had all the time to practice. So what was I missing? Passion. It was as simple as that. Did I want to learn to play? Sure I did, but it was never a priority. I forced myself to practice, and I often forgot about it completely. I didn’t live for it — I didn’t stay up late, excited about my next lesson.

And that’s what separates musicians from us mortals. Musicians live for music. Tune is for them what cold and hot are for us. They hold a rhythm as naturally as we hold a pace while we walk.

I recently met the conductor of a local theater orchestra. She spoke about her work and the exhaustion it brings — the lack of sleep and the pressure of each nerve about to snap during rehearsal or premieres — but the shine in her eyes when I told her how beautiful the performance was spoke louder than her words. In a way, no one could ever question her passion, and her eyes revealed her love of her job. She absolutely adores it. No matter how unpredictable and risky the world of a musician is, it’s absolutely worth it for the people who just belong.

On stage, after conducting a whole orchestra like it was nothing, she smiled kindly at the audience as the applause thudded through the hall like a hailstorm. I felt a sharp, intense sting of envy.

One of my friends plays in a band — multiple bands, actually. The dude walks along the sidewalk, earphones in, strumming a solo on invisible strings down his leg. He sits down, and his hands immediately find drums on which he can play. Eyes closed, mind focused, he hears what other people don’t — composes music and records it.

Most people nowadays don’t know how to listen to music,he told me. He followed this statement with an explanation that people often overlook the meaning between the lines of lyrics or that they condemn instrumental music altogether. On one hand, I wanted to agree because who hasn’t heard a complaint like that, right? But on the other hand, I wanted to tell him that he was full of crap and that people can listen to whatever they want. It doesn’t mean that it’s wrong just because he doesn’t like it. And I’m right on this point.

Still, it leaves me wondering whether there is something special in music that I simply don’t hear — an otherworldly beauty of sound seeping through my fingers, while I hopelessly try to grab it.

I think I finally figured it out when he sent me a demo of a song he was composing. He pours himself into a song every time he writes a part, and every note represents a feeling born in his mind. The instruments musicians play, or the songs they sing, tell their stories. Their pens are filled with ink of liquid thoughts, inspiration, and emotions. When the tip touches the paper, all of those bleed into notes and words.

Just like painters imprint themselves into their work, musicians do the same. Just like a writer tweaks one sentence for a week to sound correct, a musician plays the same note a hundred times only to replace it with a completely different one because it suddenly sounds better that way.

Once they play, once they sing, they hear and see their ideas and thoughts and wants come to life. I believe there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing something you’ve created being enjoyed by others.

You know the feeling when you find a song that makes your hair stand on end? This song, when playing in your headphones, shuts out the world, and you feel yourself disappearing in the quicksand of its rhythm. Whenever I find a song like that, it feels like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle sliding into place.

People have a need for self-realization and to create something distinctive — something with their name on the label to showcase and to be proud of who they are. Sure, it’s a low-level priority in the pyramid of basic needs, but it is there. And I can only envy those who speak to the world through words and rhythm and create music that moves and affects people.

Passion is the most attractive, most giving thing in the whole world. And I passionately admire those who give by creating music.

RED DOT is a university student with too little time on her hands and too many words on her mind to write. She loves reading and writing, mostly essays and short fiction, and she is motivated by stories that evoke emotion.