Monday, February 20, 2012

Forgetting to Breathe

Yesterday night, around seven o'clock, I stopped breathing.

Don't worry -- it happens to me quite a bit. It's not a "condition" of any kind and my life is never in danger -- I just stop breathing once in awhile. It only takes a handful of seconds before my reptilian brain kicks in to interrupt the other brain departments and inform them that there is an issue that needs to be addressed. It's at that point that I take a deep breath, like a man emerging from a spear-fishing attempt. Once I'm properly oxygenated, I stop for a second to laugh at my silly self.

As I said, this happened last night. It always has to do with music.

I'm not trying to paint a Romantic portrait of me. (Ah! Matarazzo is in tune with a deeper thing!) In fact, despite having concentrated on the Romantic Period in English literature in my graduate school years, you would think it would all be poets' sleeves and brow-rubbing with me, but it isn't so. I am quite the realist when it comes to the arts, as many of you have seen in my column for When Falls the Coliseum. I commonly refer to Coleridge as "poor Coleridge," probably because of the influence of my great professor, Dr. Robert Ryan. I always think that those guys -- the Romatics -- would have been so much better off as people (and, ultimately, as poets) if they had been more...normal. (Wordsworth came pretty close, it always seemed to me, short of the occasional boat-theft and midnight lake voyage.)

But "facts is facts" as they say. Music makes me forget to breathe, sometimes.

Often, while composing, I do it. I'll get to the end of working out a chord progression and it's like the top of the piano is the waterline: I break through and breathe deeply. Often, I can blame Maurice Ravel. Sometimes, an Oscar Peterson piano solo will do it to me. Sometimes, it can come from somewhere I'd never expect.

Last night it was Keith Urban. Yes, a country singer. I'm not a "country" fan. At all.

John Mayer plays and sings with him on this, so that may have a lot to do with my liking this: John sort of dilutes the yee-haw factor a bit. (I've not yet heard the original recording.) But there is no denying Urban's talent. Until this song, I just used to say: "Man, Urban can play -- melodic, musical, etc." But this? Well, it stopped the old respiration last night. It's simple and hypnotic and just metaphoric enough that is doesn't feel country (which, to me, means "literal"), in terms of lyrics. It has one of those repetative chord progressions that puts god musicans in "the zone" -- a hard thing to explain, but musicians do understand that place.

Anyway, my point is: you never know what is going to "get" you as you walk through the course of a day, so long as your eyes and mind are open. Here's hoping you, my friends, also have something in your life that makes you forget to breathe from time to time.

(John Mayer is credited here, but it is Urban's song.) See what you think of "'Til Summer Comes Around."


  1. I'm surprised the singer-songwriter in you doesn't like country! Once you get past the five junky songs of the moment on the pop-country radio stations, I think you might find much to like in the more serious rooms of the country mansion.

    1. Strangely, Jeff, I have a dark inkling that I would like to play the drums for a country band. Every time my band covers a country tune, I find myself enjoying it. (Don't tell them.) I never do rule any musical form out -- which is why I stopped to watch Urban and Mayer. It's just rare when a country song "gets" me. And, arguably, this song is not really country -- it is just a pop tune sung by a country singer. Maybe I will wander into those "more serious rooms" as time goes one... (I do like some Johnny Cash stuff... Oddly, my favorite by him is his cover of the Nine Inch Nails tune. Maybe I'm hopeless...)

  2. Love this! I am not a big fan of country music either but I saw Keith Urban in concert... he was da bomb. Just wails on the gee-tar. Pretty darn good banjo player too.

    1. Talent is talent, Elise. The dude is good, fer sher. (I could do without the banjo experience, though.)