There is an old African American Spiritual that says,
Over my head, I hear music in the air!
There must be a God somewhere.
Yes, God has to exist. How else could we explain music?
Now, please understand, I speak here, not a theologian, but as a poet; not as a philosopher, but as lover of music. And in the mode of poet and lover, I want to say that, for me, music is the 6th proof for the existence of God. St. Thomas designated five proofs for the existence of God (motion, efficient cause, contingency, perfection and design). I am not in his league, I am just hitchhiking a ride on his idea in a poetic, not a theological way.
Yes, I know God exists for, among other reasons: I hear music in the air. There must be a God somewhere!
It was through music (and beauty) that God called me (for I joined the Church choir to meet the pretty girls who sang there). And God put a song in my heart and called me through the majesty and exquisite beauty of Church music: The metrical march of the hymn and the joy of playing its counterpoint with my feet at the organ; the sighing of Gregorian chant, almost as if singing in tongues; the mystical harmony of Renaissance polyphony; the joy and fun of singing Mozart, the dignity of Bach; the soaring majesty of a Viennese Classical Mass, the haunting beauty of the African American Spirituals in their pentatonic scale; the exuberance of Gospel music so centered on the greatness of God. Yes, these have been God’s gift to me whereby he has spoken to the depths of my soul.
There is an old saying:
Bach gave us God’s Word, Mozart gave us God’s laughter, Beethoven gave us God’s fire. God gave us music that we might pray without words. — quote from outside a German opera house
Scripture says the Lord puts music in our hearts and that many, by it will be summoned to faith: The Lord set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD. (Psalm 40:3-4) I can only say, Amen. This is exactly what happened for me.
And music seems to be a unique gift of God to the human person. Animals do not sing. Oh perhaps some say the birds do “sing” but it sounds more like a Morse code type of communication than true song. Only the human person, by the charism of God’s grace, has produced the majesty of music, and surely it emerges from the deep mysterious places of our soul. So singing is a special trait of human beings and part of our dignity.
And to some extent only humans grasp it. I have often marveled at how unaffected by a great song my pets have been. I can be tapping my toe, be moved to tears, filled with zeal by a song and the dogs and cats I have had just lie there bored. Proof again that music is distinctly human and requires an immortal, God breathed soul to grasp it.
Yes, music can stir, it can call forth tears, it makes us swell with healthy pride and exuberance, it can instill joy, provoke our deepest thoughts, and it make us want to dance. Music unites, it also divides, some love what others hate, it can make you mad, it can make you sad, it can make you glad but seldom are we merely neutral as to it’s quality or influence.
The genius and variety of music is astonishingly remarkable: from country to classical, modern to medieval, blues to ballads, solos to symphonies, jazz to jewsharp, renaissance to rap, and polyphony to parade music.
Music is the soul’s way to exhale, to express itself beyond words. It bespeaks the soul’s longing, its sighing, its joy and its sorrow, words are optional. Appreciate anew this miracle of human existence, this unique gift to the human person, this flash of beauty and dignity in the soul of every human person.
Of course God exists. One way I know he exists is that he put a song in my heart and gave me ears to hear his glory:Over my head I hear music in the air! There must be a God somewhere.
Photo Credit: Screen shot from The Sound of Music
Here’s a little video I put together based on the spiritual: Over My Head