New Episode on Podcast

This post is a lot late than expected. Life sort of happened this week. Things got busy, but I was able to get this edited and posted. Honestly, the hardest thing about maintaining a blog or podcast or anything on social media is just that. Maintaining. It takes time and dedication and sometimes it feels like a drag keeping things up. If I’m being completely real, I’m doing all of this to keep my mind thinking while I balance working an oftentimes mentally arduous job and a job that requires no brain power but sucks the physical energy out of me. Such is life. Anyway, I hope you all enjoy the episode. Per request of a coworker, I will be attempting a rhetorical analysis on an Instagram post of hers. In the next couple of weeks, I’ll be both posting new content on this blog and recording audio for older posts, so stay tuned!!

p.s. The new episode is up on SoundCloud at this link: https://soundcloud.com/user-62785598/mortality-and-expendability-in-stranger-things

-Jace

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The Millennial Mariner Podcast

So, I am the cohost of a podcast called The Lit-Knitters with my friend Sam Jacob. Because of this experience, I’ve decided to venture into podcasting in tandem with writing in this blog. In this podcast, I will be recording the posts I have written as well as have discussions with guests to spice up the conversation. Below is the link to my podcast on SoundCloud. You can also find it on Pocket Casts and Stitcher. I only have the trailer up, but I will have an episode up by Monday night!

SoundCloud – https://soundcloud.com/user-62785598/trailer

Stitcher – https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/anchor-podcasts/the-millennial-mariner

Pocket Casts – https://pca.st/95Tn

Spotify

Off-Gridding: You Don’t Matter and That’s Okay

Featured

There’s something in us that yearns to be recognized and valued. Even the humblest among us feels at least in some degree the need to be needed. Despite what many of us have been told in our lives about being a unique snowflake with value beyond compare and you are the center of your life’s drama, this isn’t entirely true. I’m not here to say that nobody matters. Everyone has value, and everyone needs to be viewed as important. We are individuals with highly distinguishing features and frailties that make us who we are. They define us and help us understand ourselves and others. Nobody can and should dispute or disregard anyone’s personal value. I’m also not here to preach that “you are one insignificant grain of sand on a beach, and no one will ever care about you and you matter less than you think.” While there is some truth to that statement (there are currently seven-billion+ people currently living on the earth, mind you), we sometimes don’t feel valued and that’s okay.

Recently, I’ve taken the steps to establish more of a web presence on online communities like Twitter, Instagram, and even Reddit. I’ve used these platforms to find and connect with people like me: the nerdy, book types who write about literature. However, I’ve mainly been using these platforms to promote and share my analytical and creative writing as well as a podcast I do with a friend of mine. As good as I think I am at writing or putting together a podcast, the content I’m producing usually falls on blind eyes and deaf ears. Also, I’m not using this as a way to throw blame or shame at people who don’t like my stuff. You can like or not like what you want. I can’t force you to do anything.

but you're wrong and I hate you

I’m using this to set the stage for something else, so don’t feel like I’m trying to coerce you into following me on Instagram, Twitter, or giving me those sweet karma points on Reddit. I’ve realized that the number of followers I have or the amount of likes I accrue doesn’t and shouldn’t be a deciding factor in my worth as an individual or as a creator. It’s honestly my dorky intellectual habits and pursuits are in part what define me.

I learned this lesson recently when I accidentally left my phone at my apartment when my wife and I went to one of her photo shoots. We left around 11:30 am. The location was about an hour and a half drive from our apartment, so we had some time to talk about our week and how things were going. One of the things we talked about was what we were going to do about replacing a tire on my car. A few days earlier, I had driven home from work and run over a bent metal plate that had fallen off of a truck in front of me. The metal punctured my front left tire, but I didn’t know that the tire was flat until two days after the incident. I wanted to know how much a tire would cost to replace. I reached into my pocket to check my phone, and as fate would have it, my phone was not in my pocket. I asked my wife what time we would be home, and she said that we wouldn’t be home until around 10 or 10:30 pm. Dread sunk in. I was off the grid. I had unintentionally gone rogue. To make things more intense, my watch had recently stopped ticking. I was phoneless, without any concept of time except for looking at the shadows being cast by vertical objects, and kind of without any way of knowing how much tires cost. In the same instant, I thought, “I’ll probably get text messages that I need to answer, calls, notifications on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Reddit. How am I going to respond?”

Luckily, I had something to read while my wife was working her magic, and we were able to spend unadulterated time together between the wedding and the reception. We went to Ramen Haus in Odgen, Utah, chilled out at a library, and ended up eating sandwiches from Walmart at around 9:00 on our way back. We got to talk to each other, listen to each other, and just spend time. It was refreshing, but even toward the end of the evening, I still had the thought of “what have I missed? Did anyone miss me?”

To my surprise, the only notifications I received the entire day were from my news app. Nothing. Silence. My mother had called earlier in the day three times, but after no success in reaching me, she called my wife. Even then, I was not asked about and my wife was able to answer my mother’s questions. I was off the grid and nobody noticed. For about five seconds I felt like my attempts at establishing a web presence were a waste and that no one would ever like anything I posted ever. I felt like no one cared that I was gone. After those five seconds, I thought back on my day: the ride up to Ogden, the reading, and most importantly the conversations I had with my wife and the time I got to spend with her. In that moment, the notifications faded, and I was reminded that my personal value doesn’t come from the likes I receive or the followers I amass on social media. I didn’t matter that much online that day, but on the ride home, my wife thanked me for coming with her and told me that she appreciated that I took the time to come with her and just be there. What started as an accident, ended in a nine-hour step back off the grid from what I thought mattered. I saw more clearly that evening that what really mattered wasn’t my interaction on the web with complete strangers, but my interaction with the woman I love. I realized that even if all my followers unfollowed me or stopped liking my posts, I would still have her.

So, if you feel like you don’t matter or that your presence online is defining you, take a second and step off the grid. It will give you the perspective you need to understand that even if you don’t matter all that much in the grand scheme of social media, you can define yourself and understand your value. Unplug, step away for a while, and try your hand at off-gridding. You never know if someone close to you needs you to just be there with them.

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[Close Reading Rainbow Part 1] “Me – Who?”: National Identity in “Theme for English B” by Langston Hughes

To start off my return to the blogging world, I will be doing a series of short close readings of poetry, short stories, and novels. I’ll start off this series with one of the greatest American poets of the early twentieth century: Langston Hughes.

Langston Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri in 1902. He was one of the leading writers and artists in the Harlem Renaissance. His poetry is extremely lyrical and incredibly poignant in relation to understanding the racial tensions of the first half of the twentieth century; sadly many of these same tensions exist today. Hughes’ poem “Theme for English B” was published in 1951 in his collection Montage of a Dream Deferred. Before I go into my analysis here is the poem in its entirety for a reference and so that you can experience the message that Hughes spent his career trying to convey to American readers: both black and white, bond and free.

“Theme for English B”

The instructor said,
      Go home and write
      a page tonight.
      And let that page come out of you—
      Then, it will be true.
I wonder if it’s that simple?
I am twenty-two, colored, born in Winston-Salem.
I went to school there, then Durham, then here
to this college on the hill above Harlem.
I am the only colored student in my class.
The steps from the hill lead down into Harlem,
through a park, then I cross St. Nicholas,
Eighth Avenue, Seventh, and I come to the Y,
the Harlem Branch Y, where I take the elevator
up to my room, sit down, and write this page:
It’s not easy to know what is true for you or me
at twenty-two, my age. But I guess I’m what
I feel and see and hear, Harlem, I hear you.
hear you, hear me—we two—you, me, talk on this page.
(I hear New York, too.) Me—who?
Well, I like to eat, sleep, drink, and be in love.
I like to work, read, learn, and understand life.
I like a pipe for a Christmas present,
or records—Bessie, bop, or Bach.
I guess being colored doesn’t make me not like
the same things other folks like who are other races.
So will my page be colored that I write?
Being me, it will not be white.
But it will be
a part of you, instructor.
You are white—
yet a part of me, as I am a part of you.
That’s American.
Sometimes perhaps you don’t want to be a part of me.
Nor do I often want to be a part of you.
But we are, that’s true!
As I learn from you,
I guess you learn from me—
although you’re older—and white—
and somewhat more free.
This is my page for English B.

The speaker of Langston Hughes’ poem “Theme for English B” wrestles with a crisis of racial identity as he strives to follow the directions given by his instructor: “Go home and write / a page tonight. / And let that page come out of you – / Then, it will be true” (ll. 2-5). While attempting to answer the quandary of the apparent simplicity letting the truth issue forth out of him and onto the page, the speaker effectively raises awareness to the fact that detecting truth about one’s identity is more complicated than simply going home and writing a page tonight. The speaker shows the complexity of racial identity through addressing both Harlem and New York as separate entities in the piece, through using double negatives, and through blending musical tastes of both whites and blacks. The simple fact about racial identity, according to the speaker is that race is complicated, but regardless of race, all who call themselves Americans should understand that the truest truth is that “we are” (ll. 36).

Hughes’ speaker feels, at least in some degree, at odds with his own identity at the beginning of the page that he writes by mentioning both Harlem and New York as influences in his life. “I’m what / I feel and see and hear,” the speaker explains (ll. 17-18). The reader might be asking, “What does he feel, see, and hear?” The speaker feels, sees, and hears “Harlem” (ll. 18). This can be seen earlier in the poem, with the speaker stating that he is “the only colored student in [his] class” (ll. 10). Hughes sets his speaker apart from the rest of his classmates by making it clear that he is one black student in a sea of white. Just as the speaker is physically different from his classmates, Hughes, through the speaker, consciously separates Harlem from New York in the way that he sets off New York parenthetically. “Hear you, hear me,” the speaker thinks, “we two – you me, talk on this page” (ll. 19). It seems as though he is only addressing Harlem as the main influence in his life. Yet, in the following line, the speaker expresses that “(I hear New York, too.)” (ll. 20). By parenthetically dividing the dark Harlem from the light New York, Hughes hints at the truth that identification is complicated, even when someone like the speaker is being integrated into a predominantly white class.

The difficulty of truly self-identifying is furthered as the speaker describes his interests and hobbies, many of which coincide with and conflict with interests of the whites. Hearkening to Zora Neal Hurston’s “What White Publishers Won’t Print,” the speaker becomes candid with his interests: “Well, I like to eat, sleep, drink, and be in love. / I like to work, read, learn, and understand life” (ll. 21-22). Just as Hurston suggested when she says that “As it is now, this capacity, this evidence of high and complicated emotions [in blacks], is ruled out,” the speaker wants the reader to know that even though he is black, he still has the same emotions as every other human being on the planet and should be treated as such. The complication comes in when the speaker mentions that he wants records for Christmas, namely: “Bessie, bop, or Bach” (ll. 24). Bessie refers to “the Empress of Blues” Bessie Smith, and bop is a type of popular jazz music at the time. Both of these types of music were typical for the average black person of the time, yet with the inclusion of Bach at the end of this list, there is a tension created. Not only is Bach not a jazz or blues musician, he is a white, European Baroque composer. By including Bach with Bessie Smith and bop, the speaker exhibits the struggle of pinning down an identity, especially when it is culturally imposed upon him. He enjoys jazz and the blues, which tended to be more typically black music during the time, yet he loves listening to Bach which is music that was usually reserved for more privileged white individuals. This cultural conflict in the speaker’s own self-identification causes an interesting tension that is alleviated in the poem.

This tension begins to be calmed as the speaker uses a double negative to justify his own identity to the reader. “I guess being colored,” the speaker admits, “doesn’t make me not like / the same things other folks like who are other races” (ll. 25-26). The speaker exhibits uncertainty about his own identity in the use of the double negative “doesn’t not” which causes the reader to double-take to figure out what it means when someone “doesn’t not” like something. If the double negative is omitted, the reader could read this as “I guess being colored makes,” or even gives him the liberty to “like the same thing other folks like who are other races.”

The speaker is able to lift the tension by answering the question he poses at the beginning of the poem regarding the truth about racial identity: who is the me when he asks the question, “Me – Who?” (ll. 20). The speaker reaches the grey area of being black and liking both black and white things through referring to himself and the instructor as both “Americans.” He says to his instructor, “You are white – / yet a part of me, as I am a part of you. / That’s American” (ll. 31-33). He continues stating that “Sometimes perhaps you don’t want to be a part of me. / Nor do I often want to be a part of you” (ll. 34-35). The truth that Hughes, through the speaker, discovers is that racial identification is a difficult endeavor when cultural norms and expectations are heaped upon individuals’ backs. He exclaims that although blacks and whites have their similarities and differences, “we are,” and “that’s true!” (ll. 36). Although the question of “Me – Who?” is a difficult one to grapple with, Hughes urges his readers to retract the accusatory and discriminatory pointer digits with shouts of “You, you, you!” and instead recognize the “We-ness” and oneness that should prevail in the nation. “That’s” what Hughes suggests as being truly “American.”

Just like Hughes is suggesting here, an American voice is hard to pin down. Since America is home to so many people, no one group of people can claim the title of American. Hopefully we can all recognize the voices of Americans of all races, religious affiliation, national origin and so forth.

Also, if you want me to do a close reading of any poem, novel, short story, or play comment below! Thanks, and see you on Saturday.

“It is the Same” – The Sameness of Change in Shelley’s “Mutability”

BY PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY
                                         I.
We are as clouds that veil the midnight moon;
    How restlessly they speed and gleam and quiver,
Streaking the darkness radiantly! yet soon
Night closes round, and they are lost for ever:—
                                         II.
Or like forgotten lyres whose dissonant strings
    Give various response to each varying blast,
To whose frail frame no second motion brings
    One mood or modulation like the last.
                                        III.
We rest—a dream  has power to poison sleep;
    We rise—one wandering thought pollutes the day;
We feel, conceive or reason, laugh or weep,
Embrace fond woe, or cast our cares away:—
                                       IV.
It is the same!—For, be it joy or sorrow,
    The path of its departure still is free;
Man’s yesterday may ne’er be like his morrow;
    Nought may endure but Mutability.

In Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Mutability”, the speaker explores the tension that is experienced as a result of change; this change is seen in nature in the first four lines, music in the next four lines, emotion in the following four lines, and finally the speaker resolves the conflict in the concluding quatrain by expressing that “It is the same” (ll. 13). Although this seems to be a strange conclusion to come to considering the contrasting and oftentimes combating conundrums within the quatrains, it is in fact the only fitting final thought that can ultimately untie the knot and alleviate the pressure that is contained within each line. Through creating tension with contrasting imagery within the same lines, Shelley adeptly accentuates the truth that change, whether it be drastic or subtle, is a part of our existence as humans that must be reconciled with.

As an introduction into the tension surrounding change, the speaker utilizes the image of a cloud covering the moon as a way to show the mutability inherent in nature. The opening line expresses the idea that we are “as clouds that veil the midnight moon” (ll. 1). This picture has within it subtle tension with the use of the verb veil. The clouds are in motion, but the speed of this motion is slow, and uncertain. It isn’t until the following line that the speed of the motion is revealed to the reader. The tension increases with the addition of descriptors like how the clouds speed “restlessly” (ll. 2). The clouds aren’t just slowly veiling the moon; they are rapidly shrouding it. This creates a feeling of encroaching darkness and gives the reader a sensation of claustrophobia. The light created by the moon is being cloaked by the incoming cloud cover.

Although there is definite dissonance in the movement of the clouds across the moon, the speaker deepens this dissonance through contrasting light and dark. Normally, when clouds cover the moon the light is squelched behind a veil. This is not so in this case. The light of the moon “gleam[s], and quiver[s]” (ll. 2). The light is still present, but it quivers with the coming of the clouds. Tension rises in the following line as the clouds “[streak] the darkness radiantly!” (ll. 3). The juxtaposition of the streaking of darkness radiantly propels the pressure created by the contradicting wording until the tension is finally released in the last line of the quatrain: “yet soon / Night closes round, and they are lost forever” (ll. 3-4). The contrast of light and dark and the way in which the light, oftentimes white, clouds act as an agent of streaking the darkness creates and exhibits the tension that comes with changes in nature visually.

The changes that occur in the physical world, as addressed in the first quatrain, are heightened as the speaker continues their exploration of mutability in the realm of music and sound. In the first quatrain, the reader receives a visual representation of dissonance; the second quatrain examines auditory mutability. The speaker tells of “forgotten lyres, whose dissonant strings / Give various response to each varying blast” (ll. 5-6). The tension in the first two lines of the quatrain is heard through the words “forgotten,” “dissonant,” “various,” and “varying.” These sounds were once audible yet forgotten. The audio-memory of the lyre and the music that was once played thereon is fading further into memory. This image elicits a tone of sad longing for a half-remembered tonal memory that, just like the clouds covering the moon, will soon be “lost forever” (ll. 4). Rather than using contradicting phrasing like that of the first quatrain, the speaker builds upon the tension through compounding the melancholic mood by describing the “various response[s]” of the lyre as possessing a “frail frame” that is constantly changing with no “mood or modulation [being] like the last” (ll. 6-8). The tension isn’t totally resolved with the final line of the quatrain, for it is made more manifest through the motion of the mood and modulation, which perpetuates the pressure presented in the first two quatrains of the poem.

The perpetuation of pressure is proclaimed in the opening two lines of the third quatrain, as it is in the first quatrain, through creating cacophony in each individual action in the line. The speaker suggests that “We rest,” connoting that rest is a natural human experience. The complication surfaces immediately following the dash: “– A dream has power to poison sleep” (ll. 9). Although sleep is something that we all do, there is a potentially dangerous element of slumber that has the power to poison. Likewise, in the following line, the image of sleep is juxtaposed with the initial “We rise.” This rising, which usually holds within it a denotation of rebirth and redemption, is contrasted later in the line following the dash with, “– One wandering thought pollutes the day” (ll. 10). As compared to the previous two quatrains, the speaker condenses the tension like the spikes seen in that of a shrill noise captured in a microphone. This tension, although very much present in this quatrain, is short and more representative of the “varying blast[s]” described in the second quatrain (ll. 6).

The rest of the quatrain, which continues exploring dissonance in emotions, shortens the tension to an almost syllabic sensation, thus making for an even quicker and sharper conflict-resolution than the previous two lines. Instead of dividing the dissonance between one half of the line and the other, the tension is evident between neighboring words. “We feel,” the speaker states, “conceive or reason” (ll. 11). Each of these words are ways in which humans receive and perceive sensations. Although these words are used to describe sensations, each word is vastly different than the other. “Feel” connotes a response to physical sensations, “conceive” holds reference to a response to visual or audio sensations, and “reason” sides closer to the metaphysical response to sensations. Within the three verbs provided by the speaker, there is a lexical and connotational chasm that is concocted in the remainder of this line as well as the line following.

This dissonant divide in diction drives the tension further as the discord is directed and focused more fully in the final three words of the line: “laugh or weep” (ll. 11). These two basic human emotive actions are on completely opposite sides of the spectrum, yet they are pressed together tightly like the positive sides of two magnets. These magnetic forces of expression, when pushed together literally or metaphorically, cover the chasm constructed in the beginning of the line with a taut rope that eventually allows the reader to cross the deep without the fear of falling to one side of the other. Though not entirely concluded, the speaker admonishes the reader to “embrace fond woe, or cast our cares away,” suggesting that the reader has the ability to choose whether they will embrace the mutability of physical nature and human nature, or to cast it away (ll. 12).

Regardless of what the reader will do after being shown the sheer shakiness surrounding the unstable and mutable nature of all things, the speaker provides the reader with comfort knowing that “It is the same!” (ll. 13). The speaker exclaims that “be it joy or sorrow, / The path of its departure still is free,” suggesting that though pressure is presented in the poem, as well as in the lives of the individual readers, the capability to resolve the tension is ultimately left in the hands of the reader. They are free to view the tension however they would like to. They can see it as sorrow or joy, and they can react to it by laughing or weeping. Either way, it is the same! The way in which the conflict is resolved depends solely on how each individual reader chooses to alleviate it.

To further complicate the constant stream of cacophony, the speaker concludes by claiming that the only constant in life, whether that’s physical life (as is evident in the example of the moon and the lyre in the first and second quatrains) or metaphysical life (evidenced by the emotional and existential elements evoked in the third and fourth quatrains), is mutability itself. The speaker simply concedes that “Man’s yesterday may ne’er be like his morrow,” hearkening back to the notion of “no second motion bring[ing] / One mood or modulation like the last” in the second quatrain (ll. 15, 8). No day in the past, present, or future can ever be exactly the same ever. Clouds will always cover moons, the music of long-forgotten lyres will always fade into the fog of memory, and human emotions will fluctuate as frequently as syllables succumb to succeeding syllables in a poem.

The speaker releases the pressure that has thus far been congregating in the previous fifteen lines of the poem by reiterating that the only constant character in the conundrum of choices surrounding tension is mutability itself. As the speaker states, and as Shelley strives to suggest through his utilization of contrasting imagery within selfsame stanzas and lines throughout the poem, “Naught may endure but Mutability” (ll. 16). The capitalization of the word “Mutability” gives the idea and the action pertaining to the word an almost deity-like demeanor. By ending the poem with this God-like image, the necessity for accepting the changeable nature of things generally becomes more of a charge from on high than a challenge negatively charged with the impossibility of completion. Nothing can or will ever remain the same. Nature is in constant flux. The strings of a lyre will oftentimes be discordant and out of tune. Human emotions will forever, frequently find themselves frazzled in the fray of feelings. Yet, it is through understanding the need for tension in existence that the reader is able to truly come to terms with the constant creation and resolution of tension in the poem and in their own lives.

Why is this Millennial a Mariner?

Millennial Mariner edited
The Millennial Mariner

I feel like an explanation of why I chose the name I chose for this blog is way overdue. A lot of people have asked me why my blog is called The Millennial Mariner. The short answer is that it came from a goofy conversation that I had with my older brother. The long, and more meaningful answer is a little more complicated than that.

First, the short one. About a year ago, I had returned home from a date. I honestly felt like it went really well. But, to my dismay, I got the dreaded “let’s just be friends” text. This was probably the third time in a row that this had happened to me. Knowing that one of my older brothers had experienced dating at the same university I am currently attending, I decided to call him and see if I could receive some much needed wisdom from one that had survived the dating scene. So, I called my older brother, Joel, and told him what had happened. After a good five minutes of one-sided discourse on my end, I asked Joel, “What should I do?” He answered: “Man, I wish I could tell you something helpful. I really don’t know what to say. Your experience is different than mine. You’re crossing seas that I never did. You’re a mariner.” I thought about that for a second and replied, “Yeah, I guess you could say I’m a millennial mariner.” With the help of one of my younger brothers, Court, I drew up this suave, mustachioed sailor. And thus, the Millennial Mariner was born. He’s a pretty handsome dude, if I don’t say so myself.

Anyway, it was really just a casual, mildly-complainy conversation about the woes of rejection in dating. But, as I’ve thought about it more, my purpose in writing in this blog, as I’ve stated before, is to be able to share my story and my ideas so that others can feel like they’re not alone. I also really, really, really love to write.

So, the more meaningful meaning behind The Millennial Mariner is as follows. I’ve realized over the last few years that the pace of modern life is accelerating more so now than it ever has been. We live in a generation of post-truth and fake news and what have you. It’s becoming a lot harder to distinguish truth from non-truth and frankly a lot people are losing hope and faith in humanity. I’ve found myself on the more cynical side of the spectrum more than I’d like to admit. Sometimes it’s hard to remain positive when it seems like everything around us seems to be careening into oblivion and there’s nothing we can really do to stop it. So, this is where The Millennial Mariner comes in. I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know everything. I’m a 22-year old college student. The more I’ve gone to school the more I’ve been aware of the fact that I know absolutely nothing. What I do know is that in order to understand the complex problems that persistently pound down upon us, we need some help navigating through the issues, questions, and ideas that arise as a result of our being on the earth in 2018 and beyond. A mariner is defined as “a person who directs or assists in the navigation of a ship.” Like mariners of old, I hope to share what I know and what I’ve come to understand in hopes that my blog can provide some iota of assistance and guidance as we each traverse the seas that we all need to cross.

Why Post-Rock is the Music You Never Knew You Needed

In an earlier post, I wrote about the crucial role that writing has on allowing us to express what we feel. I am still a strong believer in that regard, but sometimes words aren’t quite enough to express how we feel. When words wane, I resort to music. Sometimes it’s music with words, but more often than not, I find myself listening to classical music. Romantic musicians like Chopin, Mahler, Wagner, Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn, and Rachmaninoff. Baroque composers like Bach, Vivaldi, Handel, and (if I’m in the right mood) Pachelbel. I don’t hate Pachelbel, but as a cellist sometimes Canon in D just rubs me the wrong way. I also enjoy more contemporary composers like film score composers Thomas Newman, James Newton Howard, and Hanz Zimmer, as well as  Ramin Djawadi, Max Richter, and Johann Johannsson. I love orchestral music. Books and words have their place in expressing emotions, and so does music. I was raised listening to movie soundtracks and classical music because two of my older sisters played the violin and through exposure and association, I came to love this type of music.

As a high schooler, my taste in music was pretty much the same. Indie music got mixed in there, but I had and will always have a soft spot for music sans words. It wasn’t until my sophomore year of high school that I was introduced to post-rock music.

My Dad is an Oakland A’s fan through and through, and so when the movie Moneyball came out, we had to watch it. As I was watching it with my Dad and my brothers, there was a scene toward the end of the movie that showed Brad Pitt, who played the A’s General Manager Billy Beane, driving on the freeway while listening to the A’s play on the radio. While he is driving, there is a song playing. It starts off slow with a single guitar playing with a droning note in the background. The notes echo as if being played in a tunnel. The drums come in as a steady heart-beat like metronome as the song crescendos, indicating that the team is winning and that all the hard work that Billy Beane and his assistant Paul DePodesta had put into the franchise was coming to fruition. No one spoke or sang over the music. It was music without words. It was like the classical music I had been raised on, except it wasn’t. It was rock music, just without lyrics. I was extremely moved by this song.

After the movie ended, I hurried to the nearest computer and looked up the soundtrack and found the song I was looking for. The song was “The Mighty Rio Grande.” by the Austin Texas-based band This Will Destroy You. Never had I ever thought that rock music like this, rock music without words, could move me in the same way that songs like those of Chopin, Schubert, and Handel had. It was probably one of the coolest musical moments of my life. Since then, I have had many moments when I’ve been listening to a post-rock song and be moved to tears. Let me clarify that, manly tears.

Although I enjoy a variety of different types of music, I would have to say that post-rock is my number one favorite genre. It has never failed to disappoint me. As I’ve listened to more classical music and even more post-rock music, I feel confident saying that there are many similarities between post-rock and classical music. Post-rock could easily be considered the millennial classical music. The connection between the two can be found in one composer: Felix Mendelssohn. As we consider this connection, I encourage you to check out some of my favorite post-rock albums as you read.

Although post-rock, like classical music, is definitely an acquired taste, I encourage you to listen to some post-rock music as we consider what makes post-rock comparable to classical music. This plea comes from an unapologetic music nerd; in short I want to show you that post-rock music is the music that you didn’t know you needed in your life. So, please indulge me and I promise that you will not be disappointed.

German Romantic composer Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847), is known for composing some of the most well-known romantic music of the movement. Of all of his compositions, his collection of piano pieces entitled Songs Without Words is considered his most famous. One of his contemporaries, Marc-André Souchay, once asked Mendelssohn to explain to him the meanings of his “Songs Without Words.” In a letter to Souchay, Mendelssohn expressed that “There is so much talk about music, and yet so little really said.” He goes on to say that he believes that “words do not suffice for such a purpose, and if I found they did suffice, then I certainly would have nothing more to do with music.” Mendelssohn claims that words are “unintelligible when compared with genuine music, which fills the soul with a thousand things better than words.” Continuing, he says that “What the music I love expresses to me, is not thought too indefinite to be put into words, but, on the contrary, too definite” (269) Mendelssohn argued that genuine music should be universal in sound. Music should reach across cultural, linguistic, and geographical borders and make sense to all who listen to it.

There are definite barriers that are placed on emotion when lyrics are put to music. In these cases, the interpretation of the music relies more heavily on what the lyricist implies rather than what the music is trying to convey. During my music browsing on Youtube, I often find myself reading the comments made by others on videos. The most contentious comments are those that are made about interpreting the lyrics. There’s always someone who says that the lyrics reflect the musician’s inner turmoil with such and such and his or her relationship with so-and-so. These comments tend to be quite fiery because everyone has their own interpretation of what the lyrics mean. In this regard, words can complicate and express what Mendelssohn defines as “thought too indefinite.” Songs without words, according to Mendelssohn expresses the most with saying the least and connects individuals through a collective conception of music without the indefinite nature of words.

This idea of connectedness is what brings me to post-rock music. Music critic and theorist Simon Reynolds coined the term “post-rock” essay published in the Village Voice. He defined it as “bands that use guitars but in non-rock ways.” He continues stating that “With it’s droneswarm guitars and tendency to melt into ambience, post-rock erodes, then obliterates the song and the voice. By extension, it also parts with such notions as the singer as storyteller and the song as narrative, source of life-wisdom, or site of social resonance.” He explains further that “The more ‘post’ a post-rock band gets, the more it abandons the verse-chorus-verse structure in favor of the soundscape” (Cox, 358). Rather than telling a story that the listeners follow, post-rockers create an atmosphere of sensations. They envelop their listeners in a world of sound. Their aim isn’t to write catchy songs that people can jam to on their way to work. They construct sound so as to allow listeners to become part of the music. They feel it. The range of sensations and emotions that are created in post-rock music is exactly what Mendelssohn describes as “definite thought” because it provides the hearers with the chance to interpret the music without being wrong and being roasted by some dude on a Youtube comment thread who thinks he knows everything there is to know about the lyrics, the meaning, and the implications of yada, yada, yada. Mendelssohn believes that words have many meanings, and yet music we could both understand correctly” (270).

Just like how music in Mendelssohn’s time could be understood correctly by two completely different individuals, the universal nature of post-rock music was discussed in an interview with members of the bands This Will Destroy You, Russian Circles, and Maybeshewill in 2014. When asked about the evolution of post-rock music, John Helps of Maybeshewill said that “[post-rock] seems to be a very international thing. It doesn’t seem to be restricted to any particular country.” His bandmate, Robin Southby, expressed similar thoughts to that of Mendelssohn. He says that the interesting thing about post-rock and “instrumental stuff is that it does kind of break down the language barrier thing, so anyone can do it, and so it connects with people immediately.” As is true with Mendelssohn’s Songs Without Words, post-rockers believe that music, just plain, unadulterated songs without words, has the power to bring people together across languages, cultures, and continents.

Not only does post-rock connect listeners together, but it is also brings musicians together under an umbrella of commonality. It tends to be conglomerate of many different styles of music. In an interview with Runaf Rayani and Michael James of Explosions in the Sky, they explain how differences in music was what ultimately brought them closer together as a band. Rayani says that for them as a band, “the notion that you’re taking heavy metal, you know of just being heavy metal over here and hip-hop over here, it wasn’t like that because we all listened to that style of music; even more so before we got together, but by the time we got together, the common ground was punk-rock and experimental music, and indie-experimental.” They explain that it was the diversity they had in music styles that helped them come together and create their unique sound and place them as one of the most commercially successful post-rock bands in recent years. Their music, among others of the genre, creates such an encapsulating environment of sound that it makes you feel at home. It evokes feelings of togetherness, understanding, and for lack of a better word overall zen.

If this doesn’t convince you to be converted to post-rock, maybe a recent experience of mine might do the trick. As I was driving from my sister’s house back to my apartment, I was thinking a lot about life and how sometimes you just get a crap hand every once in a while. I’ve been trying to be the kind of person I know that I should be, but recently I’ve felt like all of my efforts have been for naught. I felt pretty down on myself and my seemingly lack of progress in the direction I want go. As I was thinking, I was listening to the song “Postcard From 1952”   by Explosions in the Sky. I had listened to that song before, but this time, I guess something clicked. As the wordless song played, the words “You’re one step closer” came into my head as I sat in my 2003 Acura going 75 down I-15 toward Provo, Utah. It was the atmosphere of hope that was created by the song that allowed me to be able to hear those words. I will forever be grateful for whatever was written on that postcard from 1952 that inspired these musicians to write this 7:06 long escape from anxiety and self-doubt.

Each of us is different and has different experiences and interests, but we all yearn for the same things. We want to be happy, we want to feel safe, we want to feel loved. In a time when division has become the norm and words continue to be the cause of confusion, war, heartbreak, and calamity, I believe that post-rock music is the music that all of us need. Mendelssohn claims that “the music of the song alone can awaken the same ideas and the same feelings in one mind as in another, – a feeling which is not, however, expressed by the same words. Resignation, melancholy, the praise of God, a hunting-song, – one person does not form the same conception from these that another does” (269). With the diversity inherent in a world full of 7-something billion people, we need music that can connect us. We need music that doesn’t create division or destroy. We need music that is able to express those “definite thoughts” that fill our minds. We need music that provides us with the environment and atmosphere we need to feel love, joy, and hope for a better world and a better future, even when that future seems very indefinite.

Books Cited:

Letters of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, from 1833 to 1847. Edited by Paul Mendelssohn Bartholdy, of Berlin; and Dr. Carl Mendelssohn Bartholdy, of Heidelberg: With Catalogue of his musical compositions compiled by Dr. Julius Rietz. Translated by Lady Wallace. Published 1864, Reprinted 1970, Books for Library Press, New York, pp. 269-271

Cox, Christoph and Daniel Warner. Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music. “Post Rock” Simon Reynolds, pp. 358-361. Bloomsbury, 2004.