Composer Benjamin Britten has said of music:
It is cruel, you know, that music should be so beautiful. It has the beauty of loneliness, of pain, of strength and freedom. The beauty of disappointment and never-satisfied love. The cruel beauty of nature and everlasting beauty of monotony.
Let’s face it, music and beauty moves us!
“Nana is a crybaby.” I had to smile as I listened to my six-year-old grandson in the back seat after picking him up from day camp. This little guy in his spider man regalia from head to toe was having a great time taunting me on the drive home. I had stopped in at the school a few minutes early, listening to their final music class. As their song and these intent and vivacious faces touched me deeply, I was moved to tears. When my grandson saw me he asked, “Why are you crying?”
“The music was so beautiful, it made me cry”. I said. In his young logic he proclaimed, “You can’t see music! How can it be beautiful? Nana is a crybaby!”
I later explained to him that things that we see as well as what we feel can be beautiful. Beauty is experience in all kinds of different ways: through what we see with our eyes and feel with all of our senses. He looked at me with skepticism, but let it go and bounded to the kitchen for lunch.
Later that day he told his mother that his Nana is a crybaby. He said, “She cried because the music was beautiful.” He went on to explain: “Music can be beautiful, you know, even though we can’t see it”. I guess he got the point. This little expert on beauty teaches us that music heard from all ages and ability can stir the heart, mind and soul.
We can be quick to judge music for the accuracy of notes and rhythms and the sophistication of the music itself. It got me thinking back to my college days as an organ performance major at the Eastman School of Music.
Judging performance was par for the course. One time as I opened my practice room door, a couple of people suddenly fell in. They had their ear pressed to the door listening to see how “good” I was! Many times I sat through note perfect, articulation perfect performances and felt bored to tears. There was something missing. I call it the “goose bump factor”.
You know those goose pumps you feel when something very special was experienced and you didn’t yet have the words to describe it? I’m all for great performances and accuracy, but without that extra spark, the beauty cannot shine through to your heart, mind and body.
Another way that the goose bump factor is experienced is through silence. When concertgoers are deeply moved by a stirring performance there is a pregnant pause as the electric energy of awe moves through the room. This is truly beautiful, and goose bump worthy. The thunderous and enthusiastic applause that follows affirms the experience, where the audience says, “Yes, I felt and heard beauty!”
Gibran says it succinctly:
O Music, in your depths we deposit our hearts and souls.
You have taught us to see with our ears and hear with our hearts.
Music, Beauty and Goose bumps. It is the nectar of life!