Music can bring us such great joy when we choose it wisely. Whether we’re listening to the classics or movie soundtracks, ragtime or later jazz, gospel, or country and western, it can lift us out of what might otherwise be a sad or dreary day. Music does make boring, tedious chores tolerable. It lowers stress levels to where we feel our long list of to-do’s in a volatile environment seems less intimidating. And certainly, sacred music brings us closer to God.
What would our lives be without music? How do folks in our dangerous world survive an existence where music has actually been taken from their lives? Even the most impoverished or primitive societies look for a way to create a drum or a simple pipe, something, anything, for their souls that are crying out for connection. What would we ourselves do?
Multiple definitions exist for the word music but perhaps the most succinct is in the Oxford dictionary: Vocal or instrumental sounds (or both) combined in such a way as to produce beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion. If all those components aren’t present, it isn’t music! Even so, my personal definition of music may well not match yours. Music to your ears might be screeching or monotone sounds to mine, or animalistic in nature. Music to my ears might represent soaring boredom in your life.
Apart from the almost unbearable silence that quickly fills with just noise from other sources in our own society, there would be little joy in our world without music. And not nearly enough of anything else is available to soothe our spirits in hard times or to begin calming the minds of those suffering from mental illness.
As with King Saul who summoned the shepherd boy David to play his harp for him during his sweeping periods of melancholy, so can music lift our own spirits. Of course, Saul gradually became insanely jealous of David and worsened his own depression. That can happen to anyone even today. We can be our own worst enemies in that regard if we give in to unrighteous thoughts and behavior. Depression is not a choice but we can do much to worsen or lighten it.
From ancient times to present day, music has taken so many forms. The nomadic existence of the Israelites after Moses led them out of Pharaoh’s slavery certainly had music: the tambourine, the trumpet, the oboe, the lyre, cymbals, flute, and more. Lutes, spinets and viols were very popular in Shakespearian times, along with fifes, drums and many songs.
Gregorian chants and other sacred music emerged from the (western) Roman Catholic Church, with Protestant churches later writing their own hymns. Slaves developed their own deeply emotional spirituals that expressed a Faith greater than that of most free people.
Folk music is a tradition in most societies and in the United States we are blessed with a rich, deeply meaningful history of it from our immigrant peoples. In the 1940s and 50s we started hearing rock & roll, and in the mid-60s came the beginning of New Age spiritual music, richly beautiful and meditative. Today we and our kids can listen to all of the music genres above, and more, on iPods and various MP3 players, as well as on CDs and DVDs. The cassette player still exists as well for those who haven’t played those skinny little tapes to death already, or thrown the tangled messes into the trash.
Many parents are fighting school boards to put music and the other arts back into the curriculum. Our lives would be nothing without music.