How to unwrap this truly spectacular gift? It pulsates and glows and pulls you in, as your heart resonates and your soul throbs. Music received and believed regenerates like faith. I cannot think that it is merely a human construct, yet I cannot prove the music of the heavenly spheres. Is it invented? Is it natural? Is it free? Perhaps it is everything.
All deep things are song. It seems somehow the very central essence of us, song; as if all the rest were but wrappages and hulls! ~Thomas Carlyle
Without music life would be a mistake. ~Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche
Music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life. ~Ludwig van Beethoven
My idea is that there is music in the air, music all around us; the world is full of it, and you simply take as much as you require. ~Edward Elgar
Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent. ~Victor Hugo
Is there a culture on earth without music? Rhythm: sound and silence are as basic as biology. Heartbeat, breath. Melody is anything with a voice. Do animals make music? Do plants? Does the earth itself sing? Sound waves flood space. Is that music?
Does music have an important part in your life, in your living?
Steve has a mental invention: “the sound pack”. He imagines carrying around a device that would provide a soundtrack to your life as you live it, matching music to your moods and experiences. It differs from an iPod in that it is all original music. Of course, he hasn’t actually built a prototype. I have never gotten into the habit of wearing ear buds and listening to music constantly. My arachnoid cyst would probably explode if I did. It’s more comfortable for me to take my music in without other distractions, especially as the white noise in my head increases. Imagine that you lived 200 years ago, before recorded sound. What place would music have in your life then?
Chicago Master Singers publicity photo - Jim at upper left
I sing to myself when I drive, making up lines and verses as I go along, like the Spirituals of the south, especially if I’m anxious. Driving up to Steve’s house from Illinois, I’d get off the Interstate at Swan Blvd and hum, “Here I am on a street like a long-necked bird…”, the murmur of a bluesy minor key calming my nerves. I would sing to my little brother on the drive home from the beach when he was a boy. He’d be asleep by the time we reached the driveway, damp head on my shoulder. I loved singing to him. When he was an infant, I would reach into his crib and lift his sleeping body so that I could take him to the rocking chair and sing him back to sleep again.
Of course, I sang to my own children. And they sang back. Harmony is an amazing satisfaction. I am looking forward to my kids visiting me on Christmas Eve. I’m hoping we can take a stroll around the neighborhood and trot out some of our favorite carols….and maybe some Beetles. Have you ever heard people singing in the streets? Do you look up in delight? Wonder why they seem so happy? I do.
One morning, I awoke to the sound of my sweetheart singing beneath my window. “Michelle, ma belle, Sont des mots qui vont tres bien ensemble….” Instead of the melody, though, it was the baritone part of a barbershop arrangement. Didn’t matter. It was in French and warmed by a May breeze. I opened my window and drank it in.
I have not experienced oneness with an instrument except my own voice. I am truly impoverished by that fact, I think. I did buy a harmonica this year with high hopes, but I am just too impatient. My mother-in-law was a concert pianist. My mother is an accomplished accompanist as well. I wish that I had been more disciplined and practiced the piano more. I wish that I had spent more time with the guitar, too. I suppose having a good voice tempts you to be lazy in that way. If Jascha Heifetz could sing, would he have been the violinist that he was?
What if we required our politicians to be experienced ensemble musicians? Would they come to office with a better understanding of unity, of teamwork, of collaborative leadership? Imagine a string quartet of President, Vice-President, Speaker of the House, and Senate Majority Leader practicing long hours together on an Adagio by Schubert. Perhaps the entire country would be in better shape.