"First Breath After Coma" by Explosions in the Sky

Like the wind, music is something that can only be detected by the effect it has on other things. You cannot see it but you can see other things being moved by it, you can feel it stirring around you, and sometimes it can even move you.

This song barged through the door of my life as a teenager. Its frothing swell of sounds evoked scenes, images, and emotions that seemed to have rained from the same typhoon that stormed within me. Teenagers are often full of angst that lives outside the realm of words and I was no exception. However, this was more than an emotional outlet of a song. This was a soundscape that seemed to have been written as though to say, “If you’re out there and you’re listening…wake up! You’re alive for crying out loud!”

Some songs are able to capture, in minute detail, the intricacies of certain scenarios or experiences that we have all shared and can relate to. There are also books, poems, and movies that do a phenomenal job of doing so. But this song accomplishes what can only be done in the solemn absence of words and the quiet solidarity required when making or experiencing a grand observation about the majestic immensity of life. There are such details no words can summarize, no movie can adequately depict, and no song can capture.

But this one comes daringly close.

Take the title of the song: First Breath After Coma. Man, what a concept. What is it like to take that first whisper of air when you awaken into a world you may or may not remember? Maybe you know that feeling. I am willing to say the vast majority of us do not, at least in the physical sense. However, in its own way, this song provides a snapshot of what coming back to life might be like. Maybe you or someone you know has been through a coma. What if your coma is not the medical sort? What if yours is emotional? Spiritual? Have you ever felt like you were ‘detached’ somehow? Have you ever felt like you were living but not ‘alive’? This song serves as a shaft of light to pierce through the haze and remind the listener that there is blood pumping through their veins. It had that effect on me as a teenager and still does as an adult.

Notice how the first sound to your ears is the slow and steady ping of a guitar; each note of the repeating cycle softer than those preceding. Soon there is more activity added in the gaps as layers of instruments are brought into the mix. When the bass drum fades in like a pulse, you may begin to realize that you are listening to a heart rate monitor reading the stirrings of an awakening heart.

What follows after this initial experience is like the reintroduction of life; the gradual remembrance of things gone by, seeing familiar faces shaped anew by age, and a coming-to-terms with the unknown elements, the things that have transpired in the absence of a coma.

There are moments that no amount of living can prepare you for. There are joys, tragedies, and wonders too vast to fit within the constraints of words. This song is a glimpse of what lies beyond the walls of those limitations. Enjoy.

What song makes you see life differently?

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