Listening closely to music can be a form of meditation. Why? Active listening is quite different than passive listening. Think background music versus paying attention to music intervals. Noticing repeating hooks. Tuning into pitch. Is someone singing in key? Or a bit sharp or flat? Following how all of the instruments interact with each other over the duration of the song. So many musical elements are a part of a piece.

After going through my music collection quite a bit for this entry, I have settled on Crystalised by the XX. This song was chosen for many reasons. On an interpersonal level the lyrics provide an interesting perspective on a relationship, one from a female perspective and one from a male perspective.

At one point, the woman sings, “I’ll forgive and forget before I’m paralyzed.” This is a phrase to chew on. If we don’t forgive and “forget” do we become paralyzed? Is there constraint in holding onto resentments? And the male voice sings, “Don’t think I’m pushing you away, when you’re the one I’ve kept the closest.”

From a musical perspective, in the intro there are dissonant chords that resolve to harmony, mirroring the tension and resolution in the lyrics. Catches our attention for sure. I hear those chords and I want to hear more. What is coming next?

The vocals are intriguing as essentially, they sing to each other. The three guitar accompaniment creates an interesting musical weave with the vocals. They separate. Then come together. Separate. Come together.

Rarely do we hear two voices singing their own different lines at the same time as they do in the closing. Only to sync up again as they sing, “Go slow.”

So, give it a listen with your headphones. The first time follow the man’s voice. Listen to it again tracking the woman’s voice. The third time follow the guitars. How are they interacting? When does one guitar play the bass line over and over, versus when does the other join in? Listen to the drum beat, when it is present and when it drops out. Then the final time listen to all parts together and see how you track the song differently, having heard it in parts.

And so now, what do you notice about the experience? Was it worthwhile? A waste of time? Do you feel indifferent? Somehow, I doubt the latter two. I suspect this song will be rattling around your head for a bit. It is a catchy one, after all.

Note: after posting initially, I did some research about the meaning of the lyrics. There is a debate about what the lyrics mean and I am posting a link to a discussion about them. It should be noted that some think the song is about a relationship with crystal meth. That would be a sad reality.