Cinematic Awareness: A Life Skill
Life: The Original Soundtrack
Every person has a soundtrack to their life. Sometimes it’s made of music, or sounds, or a combination of both. We hear a song and remember something from the past, or hear a sound and think of something seemingly unrelated to the present moment.
Sound has the power to evoke a deeper part of us than what we normally pay attention to. We might work hard to find joy or comfort in all sorts of ways, only to find that what we really need is conjured up when we hear a beautiful piece of music or a powerful song, or even a bird call.
I have found that if I pay attention to how a song makes me feel, I can gather a database of ways to change my mood or enhance a moment. I can help curate the soundtrack to my life, in a way that will make my life more exciting, hopeful, dramatic, or poignant. This is not to say that life always needs to be augmented, but there are definitely times when a little music is thrillingly complementary.
I divide the elements of the soundtrack to my life into two parts: music that makes me feel good about the world, and music that makes me feel good about myself. The former usually includes Baroque concerti and music that is so beautiful and energetic it makes the world a little brighter and fresher for me. The latter can include film scores, or music that would be considered “epic” or dramatic. I have found that walking down a sidewalk to a bold film score cue can make any journey to any destination one of confidence and power. Film scores, more than any other genre of music, tell stories and evoke scenes. If you infuse that music into your own life, it can be part of your own scenes—because any moment that has music to accompany it is a moment that has more to it than the visual.
Two things that could make all the difference on a Monday morning walk to work are 1) finding music you can walk in time to, and 2) making your awareness cinematic.
If you can walk in time to the music you are listening to, you can align yourself with a rhythm and a pattern. Testing out many songs to find out which tempo matches your walking pace can be helpful. I walk at about 120 beats per minute, so songs that are about that tempo work well for me. If you don’t like dancing but still want to connect with music physically, walking in time with the music can help you feel the beats and the energy without actually dancing in an obvious way. I always add a bit of a hop and a skip at the really exciting moments, but you don’t have to in order to sync your body to the music you are listening to.
Cinematic awareness is perfect for those songs that have obvious high points, whether they are cadences or loud parts, or musical moments that make you feel like you are soaring into the air—you know them when you hear them. When you are walking on a road, or sitting on a bus, or doing anything really, your vision often closes up. You stare at one thing. You focus, or space out, and you don’t see everything that’s going on around you. If you are doing this and you get to a point in the music you are listening to when there is a build-up, try expanding your field of vision as the drama of the music intensifies. Then, when you get to that cymbal crash, or the soaring violin melody, your peripheral vision will be open, almost as if a camera angle is widening to show a glorious shot of a mountain panorama.
If I close my eyes and open them right at the point where the music changes dramatically, opening my peripheral vision completely, I feel an overwhelming sense of joy and wonder. No matter where I do this, the place I am looking at takes on a new and powerful beauty. I myself take on a power and self-confidence that I am generally lacking before I make my awareness cinematic. If you are bored or tired, I would recommend trying this.
If you figure out how to practice cinematic awareness, it will become a habit. You will notice a crescendo and open your gaze to let in more light, more color, and it will be as if you are seeing more, in more clarity. I think this strategy helps to make life even more exciting than it already is. What films (at least live-action ones) do is take something very real and distill it. They make it more real, almost, by carefully guiding our awareness of the moment that has been filmed. If you can guide your awareness of your own life, even the most mundane things can enter your consciousness as new, or as different, and in your control.
For a piece of music that has obvious cinematic moments, here is one I use all the time. I have listened to it so many times that I get goosebumps every time the big cymbal crashes happen–the result of practice.
Soundtracks are Practical
Curating a soundtrack to your life means knowing what music will help you feel ready for that presentation to your boss or your job interview, or even an afternoon alone. It is the music that brings you joy and confidence, or helps you process something sad, or lets you slow down and ponder a flowered hillside. You’ll find that your brain wants to be guided by the flow of a piece of music. This is why ambient music exists, as well as music specifically for meditation. Music is more frequently marketed for relaxation, though what we often need is more positive energy.
Life is beautiful, music is beautiful, and when you put them together you get something powerful and within your control. I’ve found that a solution to a rough day and a bad mood is a musical “reset” that consists of Vivaldi, Zimmer and Dvorak, in that order. You can find a combination that works for you, or you can hit shuffle and be spontaneous.Curating