The sidewalks of Melbourne Beach are crumbling, if barely there at all. They run parallel to the road on the main avenues, but once you turn into a residential street you are left to your own devices. I walked these sidewalks nearly every night I lived in Florida. My footsteps became accustomed to the unlevelled gravel and strangely placed crossings. I learned to love the pier that stretched over the river near my house and the sound of the rain cascading onto the wooden beams was comforting.
The sidewalks of Indialantic sound like acoustic rock, a deep voice calling into your soul and giving you space to ponder the meaning of life. They sound like that song you heard ten years ago, and it comes up on shuffle and you fall in love with it again. They sound like Switchfoot.
Minneapolis is a big city, but in the quietest of ways. On a cold, rainy day, people walk past you without a word and navigate their way among the overpasses that exist between buildings in the CBD. Sitting in a chair in the upper level of a hotel by myself, Minneapolis sung to me- and it was lonely. Yet the streets spoke of opportunity and promise, a promise I clung to while I listened to the same pop song ten times over because it reminded me of home.
The bushland in rural Victoria is vast and exquisite. It is unique and has fingerprints that draw you into its sanctuary; a sanctuary beloved by people for thousands of years, a sanctuary we now build upon. But sometimes we step back into it, and when we do it sounds like a deep base line and honest lyrics. It is the moment the lead vocalist opens their mouth and your spirit is taken to another place. Rural Victoria sounds like the album ‘Symmetry’ by New Empire. It sounds like the first time my heart realised I could accomplish what was I was made for as I stood in the crowd, after I had driven two and a half hours to get a festival in peak hour traffic. Strangely enough, the shoreline of Melbourne Beach sings the same melody. A melody that takes you home but reminds you there are far greater things than yourself in existence.
New York City is loud. It is constant, always awake and always expectant. Homeless people sleep on the subways to keep warm until they are moved on, while business men talk the language of stocks and losses and people recount where they were the day the towers went down. New York City does not have one sound, it cannot have one song. Its brokenness and shared promise are too great to fit into a single melody, but if I were to identify the music it plays it would fall between a Broadway encore and the glitz of a Taylor Swift concert. Yet New York cannot just be the smoke and lights, so it also has echoes of the tears of innocence lost and a person coming undone at their piano.
Irrespective of where I travel or who I have been with, every sidewalk, billboard or palm tree hums a melody. It is always familiar, but distant at the same time.
It is the duet I heard with new ears the first time we hugged, and I knew that even if we never met again everything would turn out alright.
It was the blatant honesty of Noah Gunderson’s lyrics that seemed to overlay the night we sat on the beach and talked about the universe and God.
It was the overwhelming guitar rift by Taking Back Sunday that played as I ran away but had my friend chase after me to make sure I was alright.
It sounded like Mat Kearney on the stereo as my friend and I drove across southern California and I finally felt like I was free.
It was there the night I heard Jon Foreman sing ‘Your Love Is Strong’ and I grieved for my grandfather but celebrated the baby born fifteen minutes after he left us.
Sometimes we let music just be music. We sing to it and hum its tune before changing the radio station. Sometimes the lyrics mean nothing and it was just good filler on a movie soundtrack. But if we let it, music becomes our story. That is when we hear the sidewalks sing.