Back with a vengeance after a long but fruitful festival season, and some housekeeping. Feeling revivified and ready to take our Blog to new levels of insight and highlight.
As we continue to come out of the pandemic, my entries moving forward will focus largely on Arts Organizations who will be ramping up their programming and looking to re - engage their audience base. However, today (with spring being the time of renewal) I put forth a bullet- form case of my mindset as to why Music should be front and center in everyone’s life.
(This entry comes about under the shadow of Laurentian University cancelling their 4 year Bachelor of Music program, and many other such academic bodies throughout North America engaging in preliminary rumblings of restructuring their University level music programming. In my opinion, the solutions to the crisis which the music industry collectively faces will have to come first from the ground up.)
So, here is why I have chosen to lead a life in Music. We will take a three fold approach to examine this - the physical/spatial, the emotional/intellectual and the spiritual.
An appropriate use of body. The body can be used as an instrument of love and creativity, or it can be used for non creative purposes. Learning a musical instrument allows one to learn how to use the body holistically in the pursuit of creating beauty. From the most sensuous pseudo paint brush caresses in Debussy, to the most volcanic eruptions in Rachmaninoff, the body can roll with all of these punches and more!
Enhanced sense capabilities: people who practice and perform music tend to have heightened (and measurable) degrees of sense response, from the visual, aural and tactile and especially the intuitional. Even elements of taste and smell can be drawn upon - how else can one truly interpret music with titles such as the Coffee Haus Cantata of Bach without such personal frames of reference upon which to draw.
One of the best coordination exercises out there. Anybody who doesn’t think playing the violin, piano, organ etc isn't a full body, athletically demanding undertaking simply doesn’t know what they are talking about. Singers and woodwind/horn players tend to have some of the best pulmonary and cardio responses out there due to posture, breathe volume/depth and controlled pacing. At the highest levels there is a synchronicity between the breath and the body which is difficult to put into words.
Suppleness and Agility: Many musical instruments place an emphasis on development of the finer muscles of the arm/hand and breathing apparatus. People who engage in daily practice of a musical instrument have superior reflex capacity, and tend to do quite well in sports requiring tremendous hand/eye coordination and agile maneuvering when they wish.
“The Zone” - Many athletes talk about entering a zone of awareness during high level sports matches in which their bodies, while under tremendous strain etc are nonetheless light and working on the level of subconscious instinct. Music at the highest levels affords the performer all of this, but on a much deeper level as it combines the emotional/spiritual spectrums as well. Paradoxically it is a state when the correct use of the body induces a complete freedom from it. When in the Zone, it is nothing short of intoxicating, and is surely the safest and best narcotic out there!
Getting in touch: The famed British author Aldous Huxley noted that “music takes over where words leave off” and that “music best expresses that which is inexpressible”. All feelings to which human beings aspire - love, peace, joy are the primordial emotions. To get to this unshakable state however, one must be in touch with ones own psycho-emotional make-up. From the most communal, joyous, to the most tragic, lamenting with all of the subtleties in betwixt, a full immersion in music will quickly yield the emotional kaleidoscope of the human condition. The beauty of music however is that it provides the performer with a safe laboratory through which to engage these emotional states, without necessarily becoming overcome by them.
More sensitive Human Beings: building on the aforementioned point, those who are in touch with their emotions, but not overtaken by them, are more sensitive people capable of deep compassion, empathy and love for others. I often wonder if a few more world leaders had taken a few more piano lessons in their youth, what type of world we might have today.
Purging of the Soul: the Romantic era artist sought to confront his/her listener with an assault of the senses and the emotions. Many of this era’s greatest masterworks, from the opera spectacles of Verdi, to the intimate Lieds of Schubert, the miniature miracles of the Chopin Nocturnes to the epic late piano works of Brahms - each of these works in their own way runs the emotional gamut. It is important to note that the word emotion comes from the Latin ‘emovere’ - to disturb. Thus through this overwhelming burst of emotionality the great musical masters opened the door for the performer/auditor to walk through to the next level - the Peace which lies beyond.
Music is Brain food: It was Plato who said that he would “first teach children music, for in it lies the keys to all learning”. The fact that this point is lost on most governments nowadays says much more about them then it does about Plato.
Brain Flexing: As a follow up to the previous point, countless studies have been done on the effects of a strong musical background and its relation to higher marks, deductive reasoning and abrsact/lateral thinking. These are easily accessible with a simple Google search.
“Lift up your Voice and make a joyful noise unto the Lord”. This beautiful quote from the Book of Psalms gives voice to how all of the worlds sacred teachings, not to mention philosophers and humanists from all cultures have viewed the role of music in Society. No-one has a monopoly on music. Its beauty is universal and ever evolving and is meant to enoble and to uplift. It is perhaps one of the greatest gifts which those whom comprise the Creation can give to their Creator, as well as to each other.
Music has its seeds in the spiritual domain. From Aslan bursting forth into song during the creation of Narnia (from the illustrious collection of novels of CS Lewis), to the Greek Music of the Spheres treatise, to the ragas of India whose microtonal inflections are meant to imitate the vibrations inherent with nature, to the Dove flying down from the Heavens to whispers to the monophonic chants to Pope Gregory the Great, Music has always represented one of the loftiest practices to which the human being could aspire. For me, it serves as one of the highest forms of meditation out there.
No Mind - Often in practice and occasionally in performance, one has the feeling of complete freedom when engaging in music. The mind becomes still and the body responds at will, and a different level of awareness takes over.
Liszt said that ‘the pre-requisite for the betterment of the Artist was first the betterment of the Human Being”. I agree with this statement completely as there are (in any field) a fair share of charletons. However I would also argue that music can be an incredible vehicle for self discovery and personal growth.
Thus, since music IS the food of love (to embellish Shakespeare) indeed....PLAY ON!!