"The Music in Us"
By Dorothy Read
Walpole Unitarian Church
Can you imagine a world without music?
I think it would be like being deaf to the most magical parts of our lives on this earth. Throughout this journey of life, music is present, from our mothers first singing us a lullaby, through all our important passages and events, to the last hymn at a life celebration, there is music. A constant and most welcome companion.
The music is in us. Listening to music, singing, leading others in singing, composing, performing, all these actions help us to understand ourselves and our relationships, whether calming us, exciting us, entertaining us, explaining us, teaching us, inspiring us, grounding us, or sheltering us.
It puts us firmly in the present moment, the way few other things can. We hum, we’re here. We sing, we’re here.
Whether from meditation or insight, music can also help us answer the basic question of who we are and what we stand for. It could be a gentle hymn to a spiritual god, a thoughtful love song, a joyful jig at a barn dance, or a protest song to inspire the masses.
Music is in us and it is everywhere! I pop in a CD as soon as I start cooking, it adds a layer of flavor to my food, I’m sure. I can’t cook without it, wouldn’t want to. When I am writing, there is music playing in the background, and I don’t know if I could write without it. As I wrote these words, I listened to a record by local jazz and blues singer Samirah Evans. It brought me to a mellow place before I started writing, and as I continued writing, her music provided a backdrop to my day.
The music is in us. We go to concerts, we play instruments, and the soundtrack to our lives changes with each moment whether it is birds singing at 4 a.m., the radio in the car, background music as we shop or watch a movie, or, get placed on musical hold.
It is built into the melodies of our children’s toys. It is also built into our children. Where does the music come from?
A little while ago, my newest granddaughter Leola started swaying back and forth as soon as she heard music playing. It was instinct. She kept time at her own pace, and she always had a smile on her face when she did this, we noticed. Pure delight. She has added a kind of singing coo now, which is quite enchanting, and which obviously gives her great joy. The music is in her.
The music was in Ray Charles as well. He said, quote, “I was born with music inside me. Music was one of my parts. Like my ribs, my kidneys, my liver, my heart. Like my blood. It was a force already within me when I arrived on the scene. It was a necessity for me-like food or water.”
The music is in us. Where did this come from?
As Thomas Trotter noted in the earlier reading, the “music of the spheres” was thought to be the sounds created when the concentric spheres of the Universe rubbed each other. What an incredible thought. Was it a Big Bang echo, or more accurately an extremely Big Band at the beginning of it all that still resonates? Did it sound like an explosion, or a rhapsody? I’m visualizing rings of sound streaming off from tuning forks, bumping into each other and creating all the chaos and matter that followed! Well, at least as much as the limits of my mind can comprehend.
Steven Fischbacker in his paper entitled ‘Music and Spirituality’ states: “When you hear a certain piece of music your mind is often transported very vividly to a place or a memory that means something to you. Like the sense of smell, songs are highly evocative and can bring back memories of significant times, places and people.
Research shows that when you join up words and music, information is moved from the left side of the brain over to the right where long time memories are stored.”
That is very interesting to think about. You hear Bridge over Troubled Waters and suddenly it is 1970 and you just broke up with your first crush. Carly Simon sings “You’re so Vain” and you are dancing around your yard with your baby son over 35 years ago, U2 tells you It’s a Beautiful Day and the twin towers just collapsed.
Transcending time, all is as fresh in the mind as the day it happened.
The transcendental power of music can also heal and calm, reach to our innermost being, move us, change us, make us better. More aware.
Music provides important opportunities for spiritual development. Almost every organized form of religion uses music as part of its structure, whether singing or playing, chanting, drumming, or even simply calling a worship service to order.
When words fail us, there is always music to aid in our expression, to free our minds from the limits of speech and bring us to another realm of emotion, rhythm, and images.
I’ve sat at an opera and started to cry even though I do not speak Italian and had no idea what actual words were being said, the music itself was enough to bring me to tears. There have been many times in this very sanctuary when I’ve also been brought to tears through a musical experience, whether Marcia’s exquisite compositions, Antonia’s incredible voice, the children singing at Christmas Eve, or our entire congregation engaged in a compelling Taize chant.
Music communicates emotion, thoughts and inspiration transcending race, religion and culture, playing an integral role in the spiritual and emotional well being of our lives.
Individuals do not always respond in the same way to a piece of music or a song; it depends on their experience of life, the environment and their personal beliefs and their personal preference. It depends on where we are at the moment of our own personal journey.
As Bhakthi Sankeertan wrote in his book “Healing through Music,” ‘From ancient times, music is something that has put people in touch with their innermost feelings. Different kinds of music works upon different emotions of an individual and releases the various incomplete emotions leading towards a healing of body and mind.’
So put put your feet up, open the window, put on a record, close your eyes, drift away or stay put. Let the music lead you to your own heart’s desire, let it lead you on a journey of cleansing, self-exploration and fulfillment. It’s all good.
And perhaps, think about how exquisite the circle; the music is not just in us, we are in the music!
May it be so. Blessed be. Amen.
Responsive Reading: The Gift of Music is in us
And we are in the music
Music is healing
Music can calm and heal, music is a gift
Music is sanctuary
We feel the music wrap around us and are protected. Music is a gift.
Music is meditation
We stop, we clear our minds, we fall into the music. Music is a gift.
Music is art
We express ourselves in the language of the human heart. Music is a gift.
Music is Joy
Listen to the bird singing to the rising sun, listen to our own voices. Music is a gift.
Music is passion
The deepest of human emotions are mirrored in the notes of our songs. Music is a gift.
Music is Magic
It transforms our moods, our relationships, our attitudes, and our fortunes. Music is a gift.
The gift of music is in us
And we are in the music!
~ Dorothy Read