Saturday, March 30, 2013

WORDS for the MIND - MUSIC for the SOUL.


Music and People

Greenbelter Jen Logan is a student at Kings College London, studying Christianity and the Arts. Here, she considers the power of listening to music in groups…
When I am at a music festival, I find it hard to imagine how any other art form other than music could produce an equivalent devotional response within a large collective of people.
It’s probably a commonplace now to point out that music tends to be the first delight for humans, who, as babies have stronger aural faculties than oral or visual, as these are more dependent upon cognitive development. The rhythms and repetitions of a mother’s reassurances must stay with those of us who received it, throughout our lives and account for the deeply therapeutic and emotive nature of music.
But I think there is something more to it than that.
Music has no space. Music lives in time alone and as Abraham Heschel tells us, time is the one thing that cannot be siphoned off to individual and exclusive ownership as space can (through property and ownership).  So to experience music together with others, is a heaven-like event. Music creates unity among people by giving form to a dimension that we tend to experience as formless – and therefore by its abstraction – differently. Monks, I suspect might feel time as something un-rushed, untyrannical and rhythmic. But this will not be everyones experience. Yet when a piece of music is listened to together, each of us are experiencing time in the same way, and therefore feel that it has true form.  The collective tap of the foot or the clap of the hand reaffirms that we are experiencing – while the song lasts – time together. Music then, is able to give a group of people, an experience of unification that transcends interest of any kind. It therefore creates a true fellowship that is immune from the kinds of diplomatic appearances of fellowship that pervade our human exchanges so typically borne out of interests for accumulating or as Heschel writes, ‘conquering’ space.
The public performance of music and the experience of shared hearing of it is a Sabbath experience. It relates to our nature as being and while the song lasts, suspends our concern for the inherent ‘unfinishedness’ of our work life. As T.S Eliot wrote in The Dry Salvages, You are the music while the music lasts. Yet, for Christians, it is more a celebration than a suspension, as music gives imaginative expressive form, to the life ‘hidden with Christ’ that comes from the truly ‘finished’ nature of his redemptive work in us.