Not Just Cake: Why Music Matters

Not Just Cake: Why Music Matters May 27, 2021

Two principles regarding treats:

  1. A man can live without cake and cannot live on cake alone.

  2. We cannot eat the cake and still have cake.

This is fortunate for us, since treats are rare for most people in the world just now. In Paradise, where there is a party without end, if cake is your jam, you get cake. Here and now, nobody can be sure that cake is coming. 

For daily bread, we pray, the necessities of life. Why? A soul turned Godward can find joy in mere bread. The living can rejoice: soul and body. There should be treats like cake, there must be bread. Think of cake as the extra, the sweeties of life. If all was as it should be, then each of us would have dessert! In a pinch, if needs must, we can use bread as dessert. Daily bread is what is necessary to keep body and soul together. 

A man cannot live if his soul and body come apart. This is death and if we are not careful* this can happen to us before it is obvious to those around us. We can be zombies, undead, with souls disconnected from our bodies. Our bodies do not fit us, our souls are out of joint with the world.

Or so, sometimes, things seem to me. We begin to starve, our minds needing a taste of heaven on this earth.

Music helps heal this daily bread.** Some make music “cake” in education, a treat, parceled out to a few. This Scroogish decision is bad enough, but music is essential to education. 


Making music requires the head, the heart, and our hands. Music making drives tougher soul and body. When playing the trumpet, Hope Reynolds tells me she must focus all her self. Each time she plays a piece, the music is different, because her thinking, her emotions, and her playing is different. Even if there are no “mistakes” in her playing, if each note was just right, she creates a different experience by making music. When she taught me this truth, I understood that listening to music, especially real, live music must be active.

As a listener, there in her presence, I too participate. If I am lively, force my body and mind not to wander, but stay with her, then the music changes. If I am sad, beaten down by the surrounding world, but listening attentively, then her music will change. If I am joyful, full of hope in tomorrow, listening with all my heart, soul, and mind, then her music will change. As a listener, I participate in the creation of a musical moment with the musician.  

I cannot merely consume music and have music. Sound can passively wash over us, form a soundtrack to other actions, or help us ignore unpleasantries. There is something wrong with learning to “tune out” music while doing our work. Perhaps one can actively hear canned (not “live”) music and so create a new musical moment, but if one is passive, then nothing is happening. We are using music like I too often use snacks: thoughtlessly eating calories while attending to something else such as a movie.

There are few actions that bring every part of us together as well as music. No culture ever discovered has been without music and I have yet to meet anyone who does not listen to or make music. A tragedy of these times is that music is cut in tough times as if it were cake. In the toughest times, we should provide more music, a bread to our whole selves. 


Music is the essential that is also a treat.

While the musician works hard playing her trumpet, and the audience member struggles to stay alert and attuned, both can find the experience transformed. People go to concerts for the sheer joy of it! Music is necessary to bind body and soul harmoniously, but is also a treat. We do not just need music, we love music. Music is medicine that is also sugar! The more we “get” the music, understand the piece, the greater the joy.

Music is bread, highly nutritious cake.

Let us make music. 

*Beware: the Bible, Plato, and Dante (and so many others) warn that the living may be dead, though still moving.

**Nothing is foolproof. The world, like all of us, is beautiful, but can be broken beyond easy remedy.

Music matters too much to leave to the professionals, saints, or those with the greatest talent.  Music is  needed even by those who do not seem very talented! Music heals, endurespowerful for the divination of the soul. 



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