I have heard a few people, quite recently, express that music has changed their lives. I have been one of these people, myself.
What is it about music that makes us sing, play, dance? At a very fundamental level, it echoes our heartbeat (or perhaps echoes the beat of our mother’s heart while we were still in the womb). Is this why music is present in every culture in the world?
At a literal level, it can raise our heart rate. Put on some good dance music and get your chores done in a hurry. It can also lower it when we are living a little too close to the edge.
It can change our moods. It can bring you up when you are down. It can level you out when you have been firing on all cylinders for just too long. It gives us a feeling of presence when everyone else is absent, lost or just plain gone. It can make you anxious, if you are not careful about what you’re listening to. For example, might I suggest that Wagner’s Ring Cycle is inappropriate listening during rush hour traffic on, say, a hockey night.
It is enriching, energizing, cathartic. It makes our brains work, even without our knowing. Brain function is engaged when we tap our feet, when we decide whether or not we like a tune, a riff, a lyric, a voice, an instrument. When we memorize a song, when we learn to play it or sing it back. It keeps our minds well exercised. It can even provide a bone fide workout. (I play the drum, I know whereof I speak.)
It gives us a reason to go out. It opens up communities of like-minded people. It brings us together and binds us in rhythm, beat and harmony It gives us a common goal or understanding for one precious moment in time. I fondly remember the dance halls of Cape Breton and all the lucky people who can kiss goodbye their gym memberships because there’s a dance every night of the week if you’re willing to travel to it.
There is a special camaraderie in a musical group. The very idea of a disparate group of people from all different walks of life, with different jobs and personalities, coming together on a regular basis just for the enjoyment of playing the same kind of music is magical. For many of us, it is integral, vital, healing, downright nourishing to our very souls. The groups I am associated with have become like family. From mere acquaintances, I have found community. A place where I am liked and accepted for who I am. A place where I am appreciated for my talents. A space in which acquaintance can grow into friendship and in turn, can lead to love.
My life has been enriched by the music that surrounds me. It is as nourishing as any meal. It has helped me in the painful healing processes of my life and has given many, many rewards. Thanks Mom, for the heartbeat that laid down the first tracks which lead me through this crazy life.
Music is the food of love. Play on.