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  September 2, 2011
Music to the Ears...


Last week I was out riding my bicycle, trying my best to get myself in shape for an upcoming ride from San Francisco to San Diego. 

One of the glaring deficiencies of my riding is my ability to climb long hills.  Unfortunately, the ride down the coast will require me to transverse a lot of hills...day in and day out...and frankly I’m very concerned that I won’t be ready (nothing is as embarrassing as watching a cyclist walk his bike up a long hill).

Therefore, I decided that it is imperative that I do some additional hill training during the next few weeks before my long ride down the coast.  So last week, I left work a bit early in order to get in a mid-week climbing workout.

The hill I selected is about 4 miles from my home (which makes for a good warm up) and allows me to ascend about 750 feet over 3 miles at about a 5% grade (a decent size hill for the non-riders who are reading this...but it is in no way to be confused with some of the extreme hills of the Tour de France).  Nonetheless, I figured if I could go up and down the hill three times, it would make for a good workout.

Along the way to the base of the hill, I ran into a cycling friend who was on his way to another destination.  We started talking as we rode up the hill and before too long we found ourselves at the top of the mountain (hill).

At the top, I was surely breathing hard but I hardly noticed it because of the distraction of the conversation I had with my friend along the way.   I wished him a safe ride and proceeded to go back down the hill for my second attempt.

Unlike the first time, the repeat visit up the hill was a grind.  Not only was I a bit tired from my first attempt, I also didn’t have the distraction of conversation.  The rate of climbing was markedly slower than my first trip.  There was pain in my legs which was translated to the grimace on my face.

After heading down the hill for my last hill repeat, I remembered that I had packed my iPod with me.  I inserted the ear-buds and tuned it to my favorite riding music.

Although I had already ridden up the hill twice before, with the music beating, my last try up the hill seemed almost easier than the first time.  Each pedal stroke was in synch with the beat of the song playing.  The music helped me to replace the pained expression on my face with a smile.  My attitude went from dread, to triumph in a mere 3 miles.

The music transformed my experience from a painful grind up the hill to that of accomplishment.

Why is it that music effects our moods in such an extreme way?  The environment didn’t change (I was still on my bike...climbing a hill at the end of the day), yet something in my attitude changed.

My experience that day caused me to reflect a bit about how music really affects us.

Music can have a calming effect or a stimulating effect (like on my recent ride). 

Music can cause us to remember events of the past.  It can bring tears of pain or tears of joy to our eyes. 

It can make us angry (there seems to be a lot of anger in rap music), it can make us happy, it can make us thoughtful, reflective, or nostalgic.

Music is a common ground among all people of the world and helps us to create cultural bridges.  Music is something we can agree on and share from one population to another.

Music can make a movie better by adding depth, suspense, or drama.  It can help to tell a story as in opera or a Broadway musical.

Attend any religious service and you will find people rejoicing with music.

My daughter enjoys listening to classical music when she studies (she’s currently a college student) because she says it makes her think better.

Many times the same song can fill our head the entire day...perhaps it was the song that woke us up in the morning from our clock-radio alarm...maybe it was the song we played in our night time dreams (doesn’t everyone’s dreams have a soundtrack?)...phychologists even have a name for this phenomenon...they call it an "earworm".

Back when I was a kid, there was really only one method to get your music.  You heard a song on the radio and if you liked it, you went out and purchased the single or perhaps the entire record album.  Record companies and radio stations controlled what music we heard and subsequently purchased.

Today there are so many options when it comes to music.  Music is still available on the radio, but it can also be delivered via satellite or the internet. 

Many different internet sites, such as Pandora, Slacker, Live365 and Jango, allow you to program your own individual and unique musical preferences, even if those preferences change on a moment’s notice, and stream it to your computer or smartphone. 

Using services like iTunes, you are no longer forced to purchase an entire album but can rather buy any individual song that strikes you for about one dollar. 

Portable listening devices such as iPods, smart phones, and portable satellite radio receivers allow us to take our music with us whether we are driving in the car, hiking in the mountains, or out on the road with our bikes.

I can’t imagine living in a world without music. 

Everyone in the world has music inside of them and that may ultimately, one day, bring us the peace we covet.  

Thank you very much for supporting OptiFuse where we desire to stay in tune with what you’re thinking. 

Jim Kalb


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