The Beauty of Music

Laura wrote a post on the beauty of food a few posts below. Her reflection prompts mine also on the magnificence of music.

Where does music come from if not the soul? Animals do not sing. Oh perhaps the birds do sing in an ambling sort of way that sounds more like communication than true song. But only the human person has produced the majesty of music and surely it emerges from the deep mysterious places of our soul. 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.

And consider this, music is unique to the human person. In the Bible, only once does it mention that God sings (cf  Zeph 3:17) and NO WHERE does it mention that angels sing. But Father, but Father, of course angels sing! Sorry, despite the notions of popular culture the Bible does not describe that angels sing. Even in the classic Christmas scene where we think of the angels singing Glory to God in the Highest and On Earth peace to men of good will, the text does not say they sing this but that they say it! (Look it up at Luke 2:13). So singing is a special trait of human beings and part of our dignity. Angels say, they cry out and declare (cf Rev 5:12) but only humans sing. And to some extent only humans grasp it. I have often marvelled 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.

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.

Here are my two favorite scenes from the movie Amadeus, a movie about my favorite composer, Mozart. In video one, his rival Salieri describes the exquisite and subtle beauty of a Mozart Sonata. In video two Mozart is working to compose part of his Requiem at the words Confutatis maledictis flammis acribus adictitis, Voca me cum benedictis (When the wicked are consigned to woeful flames, call me to be with your blessed ones). Watch as the notes come forth from his very soul, his soul exhales and sighs, the notes! It starts slow then builds.

8 Replies to “The Beauty of Music”

  1. Great post. To be accurate, though, the first song is the third movement of a wind serenade (known as the “Gran Partita”), and not a sonata.

  2. What a great video. My father was a jazz musician when he was in his early twenties. After he married my mother, he retired from travelling and playing in bands. I still have wonderful memories to this day of our house being filled with music of all sorts (rythmn and blues, country, jazz, classical, gospel, spirituals, you name it). Not to mention the early years of my life in music school. Oops – cats out the bag. Music is indeed, a very special gift from God to us. I can’t imagine my life without it.

  3. When our daughter c was small, my husband and I sat near the back so that if c became restless during Mass we could quickly whisk her out to the narthex.

    I always felt somewhat isolated during our sojourn in the Families with Small Children Exile Section (also the realm of latecomers, some of whom glare at restless children, but I digress) because few if any of the people around us sang! My husband and I would sing…and were looked at askance. Small children regarded us as if we had three heads (each). We weren’t out-of-tune, nor particularly loud, nor spectacularly good. We were just singing.

    I was quite glad when c matured enough for us to leave FwSC Exile, and move far enough forward that we weren’t solo singers. Still, compared to the church in which I grew up, there are rather a lot of non-singers. There may be some who believe they don’t sing well enough, or who don’t know where to find the Mass setting, but the number of those who don’t participate in the liturgy or sing the hymns is surprising to me. I can’t imagine remaining silent during worship.

    1. It is really remarkable how little Catholics sing. You might read a book by THomas Day on this matter entitled: “Why Catholic Can’t Sing” it’s humourous, engaging and rather an important historical survey of Catholicsm in this country.

  4. I was recommended to your blog by a close associate of mine and wanted to know what the buzz was all about.. now I know why she was so very excited about it. thakn heaven I found you at the theright time. You certainly rock and same is the case with your blog too. I enjoy reading every post of yours and sometimes, a confession here, might end up reading it often.

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