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    Tool Me (Mistress Music part 4)

            If I say that I’m into the band Tool, I sometimes get strange looks. If the look could talk, it would say “Aren’t you a little old for that stuff” and “Those dudes are weird. You must be weird”.
            Tool’s music is heavy, dark, and reeking of angst. The band doesn’t sing about love, but about the planet’s lack of it. Lyrics call out the hostility of the universe and the darkness of human nature. The world never sounds like very much fun by the end of a Tool song. They expound a rather bleak world view. The songs are hardly ever less than five minutes long, with many quite a bit longer. All in all, the music is about as far away from the chart topping three-and-a-half-minute-top-forty-flavor-of-the-week as you can get.
            Not everyone’s cup of tea. So why is it mine?
            My love of music breaks down to the emotional connection that a song makes to me. Or doesn’t. Some songs reach me, and some don’t. Some artist’s resonate inside of my heart and boil my blood, while others can’t get a rise out of me with a crowbar.
            Despite the all important emotional connection, I still like to analyze why I like some songs and not others. I like trying to figure what about the music moves me. What touches my heart, and why? What does it bring up for me? How does it make me feel? And why?
            I’m naturally extremely curious and very analytical. It stems from a deep desire to understand, which can occasionally get in the way of me actually enjoying something. Growing up, I developed those skills in part as a reaction to my environment, which was often chaotic, unpredictable, thick with tension and anxiety, emotionally repressive, and usually didn’t make much sense to me. Come to think of it, not much has changed in my family since then. In fact, it’s gotten worse. A lot worse.
            Anyway, I somehow got the idea that if I could understand something, I could protect myself from it. Life doesn’t always work that way, I sadly discovered, but I did develop excellent analytical skills as a result. For as far back as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to know what, why, and how. Where and who always seemed like petty details.
            Back to Tool and why I dig them. On a purely emotional (and completely inexplicable) level, their music reaches me. This is one thing I love about music. Some of it, for reasons that remain a mystery to all of humankind, just slams me right in the solar plexus, lights a fire between my eyes, and emotionally kicks ass and takes names. Sometimes it happens after one listen. Sometimes it takes a while.
            Explicably, I can tell you that I find their music powerful and mesmerizing, with killer riffs and more hooks than grandpa’s tackle box. They create monolithic, syncopated grooves that are like sonic pile drivers. I don’t feel like I’m listening to their music. I feel like I’m being assaulted by it. And I love it. It’s Brutal and Beautiful, all at once.
            I don’t share their bleak outlook, or their overt pessimism, but I can relate to it. I’ve become much more optimistic and happier in the last year, but I still love their music. When I was much angrier, I liked them, but I like them no less now that I’m not so angry. I don’t have to be angry to like songs that are angry. What I relate to is the feeling of anger. The power behind it. I identify with the the pain that anger wraps itself around; like an iron cannonball around a soft, tender center. No longer vulnerable, now, thanks to anger, the pain is a weapon. A projectile. And I’m the cannon.
            I’m not suggesting that’s the way to handle pain, but I certainly understand it, and I’ve been there plenty of times. I believe that if I ever stop being able to relate to that, I’ll have lost some of my perspective, some of my compassion, for the anger and the pain inside of myself; inside of all of us, to varying degrees. I don’t want to come from anger. But I don’t want to lose touch with it either.
            I’m forty-six and still love heavy metal and all sorts of loud, aggressive, powerful music. I don’t find that the least bit unusual. Because seriously folks, who the hell started this horse shit about music being age specific? People don’t usually speak about outgrowing a painting, but they apply that dynamic to music. I’m not talking about honest changes in taste, where you one day find yourself emotionally un-reactive to music that once got your groove happenin’ or your head banging. I’m talking about mentally convincing yourself that you no longer like a song or a band because you’re “not supposed to” due to your age or social status.
            On the contrary, I find it absurd that people stop liking bands or songs because of subversive societal peer pressure, or because they “should be over that by now”, or because they think they’re too old, or because a band’s no longer chic or hip. That to me is far crazier than liking songs that fuel adolescent sex fantasies, explode with youthful exuberance, flirt with violent imagery, or light up the sky with aggressive energy. All conjure up very human experiences and very human emotions. Even if we don’t succumb to all of them, we can relate to them.
            My taste in music has become more eclectic as I age, which is a pleasant reversal of what I see happening to many fellow music lovers. I encourage you to rediscover the music that once ignited your soul and brought your emotions to a fever pitch. Maybe the old tunes won’t do it anymore. But don’t let that be because they “shouldn’t” do that to you. Let it be because you just honestly don’t emotionally connect to the music anymore. Being able to make that distinction means knowing the depths of your own heart, and owning it. And if old music doesn’t do it for you now, find music that does. It’s out there. Go get it. Don’t lose that spark. It’s still there. Maybe now it just takes a different kind of fuel to feed it.
            Even though I’m a different person now, music of the past often allows me to sink into the best of what I was at the time. Old music can ignite long dormant ideas, passions, and shades of emotions that I may have left behind in my growth. The beauty is that re-discovering that music doesn't necessarily cause us to regress, but can energize elements of ourselves that may need a good kick in the pants. Or gentle pat on the ass, depending on the music.
            As we age, far too many of us experience a narrowing of the mind, a closing of the heart, and an expansion of the waistline. I’ve worked hard at reversing that for myself. I find myself in better condition today than ever before, with a more open mind and a more open heart. I believe that capability is in all of us. Being thinner now than you were when you were twenty may be more work than it’s worth to you, and I understand that. In fact, all of it might seem like more work than it’s worth. But I encourage you to challenge that. You could find that getting older means becoming more emotionally available. You could find that an open, constantly expanding mind gets easier to manifest as you age.
            I did.

    To hear a sampling of Tool songs, go here.

    ©2009 Clint Piatelli. All Rights (and a Wall Crumbling Merciless Barrage of Heavy Metal Wrongs) Reserved.

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