The Power of Music

The Power of Music April 16, 2020

Some of the work of Arvo Part at the Part Centre, Estonia

Music always matters. When our souls need medicine, music is one tonic that is good for our souls.

This is not a new idea. 

The Pythagoreans believed music held the cosmos together. The “music of the spheres” was the force that we could not hear, this was the background sound that made our hearing, our very being possible. Plato picked up on the importance of music in his writing as did Christian philosophers. Music as an act of worship was important in the Hebrew Scriptures. When Tolkien had “God” sing the world into existence in his Silmarillion he was echoing an old Christian tradition.

Music was and is a very broad term. In ancient times, “music” would have included what we call poetry and rhythmic movement such as dance and gymnastics. The harmonious life is, classical education asserts, part of the good life. One measure of a decent School or College is an emphasis for all students on music. Avoid, if you can, an “educational” place that views music as “frosting” or the first thing to go when cuts are made.

Music is that important.

The classical virtue of moderation is tied to this internal harmony. The moderate man avoids excess or deficiency. During hard times, economic or pandemic, moderation keeps us from the destruction of eating too much or eating too little, working too much or too little, panic or complacency.

The moderate man will be a musical man.

Why Music is so Very Important Just Now With Three Recommendations

Too often I treat music as a mere “background” and fail to listen and let all of myself be taken by the music. Great music requires hard mental labor that is also different from what most of us do and so is oddly relaxing. Music impacts our bodies with harmonious music ministering to us physically. Music can make us dance, shout, weep, or simply clap along with the beat. Our emotions are shaped by great music.

I am not a musician, but married one and have best friends who are musicians. Our College and School is full of musical care givers who know what to prescribe for the good of our souls in this hard time. Here is some musical medicine. Try to sit, as if in a concert, and give these works your full attention. Do not consume the music, allow the sustaining sound, an echo of the Music of the Spheres, to fill you.

A musician friend sent me this wonderful performance of “Ne Isascaris Domine & Civitas Sancti Tui’ by William Bird. Look, listen, learn if you feel lonely, far from God, or tired. There is worship, rest, and intellectual richness.

I was able to visit the Arvo Part Centre in Estonia to give a paper on classical education and had the opportunity to meet the composer and listen to an outstanding concert of some of his music. My wife already knew his work, but this trip, coming right before Covid, made Part medicine our souls have needed. A wonderful concert would be The Tallis Scholars performing the pieces collected on the CD “Tintinnabuli.” If the genealogies of Scripture ever bored you, the piece “Which was the son of. . .” will aid that forever. Part is intellectually different, but Spirit filled music.

If you are mentally stale, physically battered, this is music to stir new thoughts and rekindle energy.

Finally, make music. Find some hymns you know. Get an instrument out you have not played in years. (I periodically bring out my recorder and play some folk tunes! This is good for me!) Try to organize a family sing. We have some family members who have a deep aversion to such events, let them opt out. Gather the group you can (even if just you) and make music for each other.

Music is too important to be left to the professionals.

I am thankful for my musical doctor friends for this medicine.

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