“ Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy.” (Beethoven)
Music has always been important to me, something I’ve valued beyond words because words could never express my feelings adequately enough. Whether classical or jazz whether gospel or blues, music has always been with me to celebrate and inform my journey through this life. I couldn’t conceive a life without it, that’s how vital it has been.
I’ve often thought that unlike words, music bypasses the brain and goes straight to the heart to touch us emotionally at the deepest level. Epiphanies have often found expression within me whilst listening to certain music; giving me a feeling that can only be described as a profound, divine connectedness, a deeply felt oneness that permeates my entire being with such incredible weight and resonance. But I know I’m not alone here for this is a widespread, well-documented phenomenon.
Interestingly enough research studies have been carried out on how music can affect not only our moods but also animal behaviour and plant growth. On the latter, studies around playing different types of music, under laboratory conditions, to a variety of different plants have shown that those exposed to classical music did measurably better than the others. Apparently Mozart came out on top!
Also of interest, especially to any budding writers, are the results of studies in the area of creativity/learning. In their book: Writing The Mind Alive, the authors state: “….report studies showing that Baroque music has a calming effect on the body, including lowering blood pressure…[ it ] shifts the brain off its everyday beta rhythms to alpha rhythms, which are more conducive to creativity and learning.”
The researchers thought that composers of Baroque music intentionally sought to explore: “ doorways to the mystery of God and the cosmos “ in their music – and I ask myself, could it be any different?
But we hardly need scientific proof on the emotional impact that music can make on us. We all, at times, respond with deep feeling to its magical qualities, sometimes reduced to tears because it has somehow touched something very deep within us. I know I have reacted quite emotionally to some particular pieces of music that have sparked off something passionately within me – music that acted as a trigger activating some private meaning often rooted in the past and associated with a particular time in my life. Like Proust’s profound experience with the madeleine cake, it has thrown up a ‘ stage set ‘ of memories, in vivid details, that I thought I had largely forgotten.
Recently I’ve been listening to the music of the English composer John Tavener. I first heard his work, The Protecting Veil many years ago and was fortunate enough to attend its premiere in London with Tavener himself present. Since that night his music has made a deep impression on me, often lifting me up to realms of ’ other-world-ness ‘ where the preoccupation with the normal self is somehow temporarily and mysteriously dissolved. It’s a body felt experience of ‘ beyond-ness,’ a passing away of the everyday, routine existence that I habitually inhabit to be replaced by a feeling of spaciousness, a feeling of complete relaxation and inner calm that I ordinarily, never enter and it’s at times like this that I begin to understand music’s power, its supreme gifts to transform our lives. As Heinrich Heine said; “ Where words leave off, music begins.”
“ Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent” (Victor Hugo)
Copyright 2017 Michael Lewin