In the never-ending quest to eat fresh plants and animals I find myself shopping for groceries on my way home from the office several times a week. Yeah, there’s a Costco haul of massive proportions from time to time but the regular flow of food from the store to my face is usually done in small quantities that last only a few days (not letting it get furry in the fridge). My go-to store is the Kaneohe Foodland at the windward end of the Likelike Highway; it’s on the way home from the office, easy in and out and plenty of inventory of yummy things. (A side note: it may also be the best-managed store I frequent and I’ve happily told the folks in charge my opinion.)

I’ve been stopping there often for several months and I noticed early on that there was a feeling of calm that I always felt walking back to the truck with my bag of chow. Not Dorothy-and-her-friends-in-the-field-of-poppies calm, just a slight shift in how the day is going. I never really gave it any thought, thinking it was just that I was winding down from the day. Yesterday, however, I figured it out. It was a crystal clear day-after-a-cold-front-scrubbed-the-air and, as I stopped to wave a car past as I was getting ready to cross into the parking lot, the view of the Ko’olau mountain range was simply amazing.

That was it! The pure grandeur of those walls of green that were close enough that I had to look up to see the top. There’s power and grace and a sense of wonder that wads up into a ball and descends on your demeanor and just gives you a moment of “Ahhhh”.

Mighty sneaky, that.

It got me to thinking about other things that have a subliminal effect like that. They touch you just one synapse below the consciousness and something happens to you that you don’t really think about that makes you feel a certain way. Not right in front of you but way at the edge your hearing as part of the background noise of life. You almost can’t hear it but it’s there, just barely. For example, good things:

  • Ocean waves lapping at the beach
  • A group of children laughing while they play
  • The sound of a beer tap filling a gas (you have yours, I have mine…)

Bad things:

  • The <beep-beep-beep> in the background in a hospital room (it comes RIGHT to the front of the brain if it just becomes a steady tone but that’s different)
  • The sound of breaking glass off in the distance (the screech of tires is pretty much the same thing)
  • The high-pitched whining of a dog

Music at the edge of your hearing can be much the same way. Places like a grocery store or mall always have something in the background that can gently dig into your brain. Around here that’s often Hawaiian (which I find makes it impossible to maintain a bad mood) but I suspect that the sound track in some of the more sophisticated stores is subliminally telling you to buy something. Something expensive…something expensive…something expensive.

My favorite Mexican restaurant has music in the background. I was in for lunch one Saturday (just the one margarita, a mango one…fruit is good for you) and someone had put on a reggae channel. I found that I couldn’t put my finger on it for the longest time but something just seemed a little “off”. I eventually figured out that it was the wrong thing in the wrong place but it took quite a while.

The message here is to take a moment and look/listen around you. What’s affecting you and how? Can you learn from this and apply it to your singing? Sure you can, if you understand the meaning of the words (regardless of what language Susie has forced upon you). Sing with the knowledge of the message and I guarantee that it will find its way into the collective mind of the audience and make that piece of music just a little bit more of an experience.

And of course…they’ll go buy something expensive…something expensive…something expensive.