Putting on a good pair of headphones can change a song forever. A song can be beautiful live, usually due to the amazing experience of seeing the artist actually perform the song. During a car ride, a tune can transform your trip. Over laptop speakers beautiful lyrics can be heard loud and clear.
But headphones, big headphones, life changing headphones make music more than noise entering your ears to be processed by your brain. At a concert, on your computer, in the car, generally whenever music is a part of an experience there is not the same feeling as when music is the experience itself. Place them over your ears and nothing else in the world matters but hearing the smoothness of a new production or that rough hard acoustic sound where you hear the pounding of fingers on strings, the reverberation of the bass drum. I’m far from a musical expert but even I can hear the most subtle tones with my headphones tightly pressed to my ears.
As someone that does not follow any form of religion, or even consider myself a ‘spiritual’ person I still cannot deny that sometimes music makes me feel otherworldly. I cannot pray. I simply do not know how to communicate with anything that I cannot see. The song Hallelujah, originally by Leonard Cohen is as near to prayer as I can get. Some prefer Jeff Buckley’s gorgeous, yet sadly overused, raw voice over a guitar. Others love the original, mostly due to the fact that it is the first version. Rufus Wainwright’s ethereal voice compliments how beautifully his hands fly over the piano. Whether over produced or poorly recorded, these are the versions we know best. The song has become trite to some due to overexposure.
However, other singers tend to perform it randomly during live sets. Those lucky enough to hear Damien Rice and Lisa Hannigan’s harmonies or Regina Spektor’s raw cries surely understand that this song is not just music. It’s a cry for a lover to hear the music of the heart. It’s reaching out for the trust of the listener. It references Samson’s story in order to show how a man can break. It is a scream of loneliness in the darkness of losing the one that you hold dear.
Focusing solely on a lyrically and musically profound song can alter you. Listening to Hallelujah with my head hugged by my earphones is about as close to a religious experience that I could ever imagine.
8 years ago