Aural History

by Jeremy O'Bryan

I’ve been listening to music since I was a little guy. I was probably five years old when I got my first plastic little record player that played the 45 rpm records you could buy for less than a dollar. I’d sit in my bedroon for hours and listen to my stack of songs over and over again.

Later I got my music from the radio through a silver Motorola the size of one of those old chalkboard erasers. On warm summer evenings, safe on my pastoral country farm in central Illinois, I could stay up late enough for the multitude of radio signals to fall silent, making way for the juggernaut WLS-AM from Chicago. The music from another world, tinny and thin, but thick with magic and promise.

Later, as a teenager, I moved to that big city of the big shoulders and found the magic going deeper with FM album rock stations and no commercials, like now there were fewer people peering in.

Listening to music is like smelling flowers. Or maybe more accurately, it’s like looking at flowers up close, detecting the texture of each leaf and bud, peering into the blooms to discover new worlds of detail. Music is like so much of nature, which seems at first to be random, but when you look up close, down deep, you find that everything God created works together in some knit-together way. Music is knit like this – and it’s like math, random yet orderly, turbulent yet predictable.

One more thing that it is: it’s a gift God gave us to express something inside us that is otherwise inexpressible, yet it’s a powerful force that tells us something, too. Inexplicably, lyrics written by a stranger, when they’re wrapped in sound waves, might become our own story, one we can access even if we are a thousand light-years removed from the truth of it. Only God has the power to connect us all in such powerful ways.