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Music is the true universal language. Whatever the language, or even without one, it always manages to weave cultures, backgrounds, spaces, and time into a unified plane of indescribable emotion. Sometimes the words are mere adornments. The melody speaks in place of the lyrics that are not understood. Sometimes the simplest arrangements resonate the loudest within you. I can never imagine a life without music. Indeed, life without it would simply be lifeless.

I am fortunate enough to have grown in a musically-inclined family. Although this has not translated to any of my siblings and I picking up a musical instrument, we still grew together in the comfort of songs.

My mother loved rock and roll, and passed on to us an appreciation for the Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Clash and even Led Zeppelin. My father, on the other hand, loved jazz standards, and impressed upon me in particular, a deep affection for the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. Their eclectic taste in music mixed with the sounds of my generation, songs from my childhood and adolescence, including the last wave of the eighties’ disco/pop hybrid, and the soulful, R&B sensibilities of the nineties. One moment we are jamming along to Tears for Fears, the next moment we are lulled to a peaceful retreat courtesy of Chopin’s nocturnes. This melange of sounds continue to this day, as I begin to discover unique artists below the surface of mainstream music.

 Koop’s Strange Love exemplifies the new found love I have for eclectic, at times eccentric music

Our folks didn’t simply encourage us to listen to music, or sing along (regardless of how out of tune we may be). They used it as a means of bonding. My father bought countless VHS tapes (in later years, DVDs) of our favorite artists from a broad spectrum of musical genres – Michael Jackson, the Three Tenors, Tracy Chapman, or Celine Dion, and we watched it all with shared excitement. And like any other Filipino family, the videoke machine became a part of the household, allowing parents and siblings to belt out show tunes or popular Filipino kundimans, to duet with shy relatives over Ogie Alcasid hits, or practice our best Stevie Wonder impression.

Classical music, in particular, was a whole different beast. Although uneducated in its technicalities and hardly knowledgeable in its history, the music of Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Bach, Wagner and others permeated into my system as I grew older. Most of my peers found them boring, glorified lullaby songs that weren’t half as exciting as a Madonna tune.

I found comfort in classical music. I found peace. I never memorized which movement or piece I was listening too, except for a few by Satie or Chopin, but whenever I listened to them (I downloaded countless compilation albums on classical music), I was transported to a new world which was safer and quieter; where emotions were heightened and the senses sharpened to the twists and turns of orchestrate music. Even opera singers became a source of joy – awe-struck by the magnificence of Callas’ soprano, absorbed by Pavarotti’s unimpeachable high C’s.

The video below is a testament to why classical music is called classical. It is simply timeless. Centuries past and they continue to move the hearts of old and young alike. Seeing the joy in the children’s faces is incredibly reassuring. While I do appreciate all forms of music, it is still nice to see that the truest sounds of them all, retain their unique ability to transcend geographic boundaries, time, age, and even gender.