Music – so bonded to the deep meaning of Christmas
Time – bonded to our hope and expectations for the New Year which follows.
Some random personal reflections on the parallels between performing music and the practice of Christian spiritual life:
“Time,” of course, is at the core of music. A piece demands a certain amount of clock time to be heard from beginning to end. Yet time seems to stand still during the progression of tones and rhythm. Beyond the commonalities of clock and calendar, the human perception of time is quite variable. In this sense music becomes a microcosm of life and the spirit – living both within and beyond “time.”
Internal listening is essential to the study and performance of music. “Listening prayer” comes very easily, once recognized.
The music played reaches all listeners equally, non-judgmentally, impartially. The performer can only “give,” not control how it is received.
Music is not a thing that is ever “finished.” It is experienced in the moment it is received, in the here and now. Perhaps this is a parallel to “perfection” as related in Scripture, where it is a “way,” not a finality. Even “perfection” is a process.
The physical skill must be maintained regularly, even as “praying without ceasing” is required in life.
Practicing music is probably the only activity that cannot be accompanied by listening to another piece of music in the background – obviously because it IS music itself, and requires complete focus, both internal and external listening.
To some extent, the performance of music enables silence in the listener. It may surprise some that musicians, in turn, deeply value times of silence, since “sound” is their career.
May those that cherish their commitment to the Life and Guidance of the Creator find inspiration and nourishment in music thus dedicated as another New Year approaches. – mjd