Why the Wind-Up Bird Sings

Right now, I'm reading The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles by Haruki Murakami (highly recommended - and I'm a near-impossible sell on contemporary fiction).

In the novel, there's a scene in a bar where a guitar player follows-up his crooning with a diatribe about the grand purpose behind a musician's work. He says it's about empathy. Music encourages you to feel what the composer feels. Or how he wants you to feel. Swells of joy. Stabs of understanding for loss or loneliness. Literally, takes you from wherever emotional place you might be, and puts you somewhere else, even if just for a moment.

It was something I'd never thought of it quite like that before. The idea that music evokes empathy. Perhaps I can count that as one more reason I like music so much? I think the world could use more empathy.

So in an appropriate, yet unintended, accompaniment to that scene from the novel, Kasey and I attended our friend Oli's show last night. He gave a gregarious, unrestrained performance despite a scratchy throat and feelings of faintness (this is a candid photo of him reaching for yet another "cough sweet." He refused to properly pose with his box of berry-flavored strepsils - typical musician).

As Oli and the other artists in the night's lineup performed, I noticed how each song conjured up different thoughts, different memories, led me to different states of mind. It further convinced me that Mr. Murakami's guitarist is quite right: a musician is a magician whose magic is empathy.

And I thought how nice it is, that there are people out there who are willing to make themselves vulnerable before a crowd, barring even illness, simply so they can fill a room with sounds from a range of chords, just to make us feel something.

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