A Month of Music: Peopling My Solitude

In her 2014 book, Transformative Experience, Agnes Callard says living authentically requires occasionally leaving your old self behind ‘to create and discover a new self.’ The purpose of this year long experiment is to lean into the activities and practices that feel the most in tune with who I am and want to become. I want to fill my days with that which elevates and inspires my spirit and crowds out whatever doesn’t.


Why A Month of Music?

Since I was a child, I have been singing to myself and making up lyrics and tunes. I grew up a free range kid in Chicago and - beginning in early elementary school - I took public transportation alone to get around the city and would often sing to myself.  Sometimes I would notice the people around me turning to listen and I would pipe up - singing whatever came to mind and sometimes holding the whole bus’ attention until my stop came and I departed. I never considered that I might be bothering anyone. As I got older, it was conveyed to me through various subtle ways that it was not only strange to walk around singing all the time but also rude. In boarding school, this was more explicitly communicated and eventually my song was sequestered to the practice room and rehearsal. I sang only the songs of others at the appropriate places and designated times.

My childhood was complicated and intermittently traumatic; I often lacked the safety and security of structure and routine. At some point, singing became more than just a fun thing to do; it evolved into a form of self-soothing with the wonderful byproduct of bringing people closer to me who wanted to help.

I’ve spent a lot of time alone throughout my life. From what I’ve gleaned, I’ve spent much more time in solitude than my peers. The poet Robert Browning said, ‘Who hears music, feels his solitude peopled at once.’ And so it has always been for me. I never felt totally alone as long as I sang.

The sensation of “peopling solitude” through music for me has always felt like an act of conjuring: of making something appear, seemingly from nowhere, as if by magic. Since I moved to Austin in 2016, my relationship with music has changed. I used to make music when I was alone. In Austin, I am rarely alone.  My world here is peopled, and without the solitude, I lack the space from which my creativity has always sprung.  I keep myself busy “working on music,” trying to get the music I’ve already made in front of more eyes and ears, but this part of the process is logistical. It lacks the magic and wonder that comes with the process of creation.

So, for this month, I want to reinfuse my days with singing. As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once said, ‘One should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.’

Thanks for reading! Click here to hear my tunes.