So when I set off on a road trip last week, I told myself I wouldn’t listen to music at first. I would let myself drive unaccompanied and listen to what the silence had to tell me.
Plenty, as it turned out. Construction on the Kennedy slowed things down enough that I could take notes for a while (and I’m sure the driver in front of me thought I was furiously taking down their plate number; if there’s a genial-looking way to take notes in the car while attending to traffic, I haven’t found it). But after I got out of the city, I had to rely on memory, singing riffs and lines over to myself and trying to fix them in my brain until the next rest stop. Because the songs just kept coming. A chorus for a song I’ve been trying to write since Taos. A fix for one whose verses have never quite pleased me. A baseline for an Unswept song from a couple of weeks ago. It was as though they had all been waiting for me: they crowded into the car. I wound up driving all the way to Cleveland without playing music.
A less mystical way to say it might just be that when your life gets cluttered and difficult, you have to clear some space for the things you choose to care about. I find I don’t want to be entirely unmystical, though. There is something a little scary and holy about communing with silence; that’s why we so often avoid it, and that’s why we need it.