Friday, May 21, 2010

The Wonder of Music

(Part 6 in the series, Experiences of Mystery and Wonder)
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After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.
- Aldous Huxley

It is cruel, you know, that music should be so beautiful. It has the beauty of loneliness and of pain; of strength and freedom. The beauty of disappointment and never-satisfied love. The cruel beauty of nature and everlasting beauty of monotony.
- Benjamin Britten.

Music is the silence between the notes.
- Claude Debussy

Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.
- Victor Hugo

Music is a marvelous thing. For many, music is the best way to express that mystery and wonder of life that we have been talking about. Does music simply remind us of those numinous events, or does it actually create a numinous experience? Music is such a bountiful treasure; did you ever wonder where music came from? How did we come by this gift? Who first invented it? How did we learn such a marvel? Who first heard the harmony of life and gave us songs to reflect that harmony?

Some say that music is a gift from Heaven, a treasure sent down from above. Do all good gifts come from above, or do they come from within? Perhaps music came from within humanity’s own vast creative capacity. What if music originated with a baby’s cry that went directly to its mother’s heart? Perhaps it arose from the sound of a women’s voice, bidding some man to stop and rest. Maybe music began with a shout in some village, interrupting the morning with news of joy. It could have arisen from someone wailing beside the bed of a departed loved one.

However it is that we came by the gift of music, it is a gift worth celebrating. Music connects us with the joys, hopes, desires and sorrows of life. Music connects us with one another. Good music is almost always a communal effort. Not only does it require a number of musicians coordinating their skills and efforts, it also is dependant upon the craftsmen who made the instruments and those who invented those instruments in the first place. Great choral works may feature a single artist, but they are supported, made full and complete by a larger chorus. Furthermore, great music requires more than the artists who create and perform – an audience is essential. Those who hear are participating in the music event just as surely as those who perform.

Music connects us in even more ways. Each generation has its own music which helps to shape, define and celebrate that generation. Any Baby Boomer who watched The Big Chill or Forrest Gump on the big screen readily connected with the music – it was the sound track of their shared lives. Most people have favorite music that makes them come alive. Many have favorite rock albums which they identify with certain phases of their lives. Even music on a small scale connects us in important ways. A mother singing a lullaby to an infant at bedtime can relax the child as well as bring calm and comfort to the household.

What kinds of music do you enjoy the most? What songs would you put on your Top 10 list? Can you think of a numinous moment you have experienced in which music was the primary factor?

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