Desiring Music, part 2
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty," -- that is allThe desire for spirituality is also, like music, a desire to somehow see the world truly and rightly – as words alone cannot tell it. I use words like one-ness, connection, transcendence, dropping away of the sense of a separate self, acceptance, presence, mystery, and wonder. Other preachers include words like God and heaven. And we can argue about the words because they are words. The directly experienced, if we see it, exposes the paltry inadequacy of all those words.
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.
The prominent role of music in religion is not an accident. Religion probably emerged in human evolution because of competition between tribes. To survive required success in defense and battle. Success in battle required high social cohesion. Tribal cohesion was facilitated by sharing of rituals, participating together in ritualized behavior -- and the sharing of stories about the origin of your people – and the sharing of music.
“a means of establishing behavioral coherency in masses of people. In the distant past this would indeed have had an important survival value, as an increasingly complex human environment demanded coherent, collective actions on the parts of groups of human society.”Rhythmic sounds are a great way to get people to clap or drum along, synchronizing and coordinating their activity. Many of you have had vivid experience of music promoting a lasting sense of togetherness. Notes Phillip Ball:
“Adolescent subcultures establish their identity through allegiance and shared listening to specific modes of music.”
If religion originates in the tribal need for social cohesion, and music is also a very powerful force in connecting people together, then it’s no wonder that music and religion are as intertwined as they are, from the church music so prominent in the history of European music, to drumming and dancing at religious festivals in cultures all over the world. According to Johann Sebastian Bach:
“The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of god and the refreshment of the soul. If heed is not paid to this, it is not true music but a diabolical bawling and twanging.”Our hymn #36 (in Singing the Living Tradition) begins:
“When in our music God is glorified,
and adoration leaves no room for pride,
it is as though the whole creation cried
And we do so desire to transcend that separation – to open ourselves to a way of presence in which every sight and sound is there for the purpose of joining with us in celebration: "It is as though the whole creation cried alleluia!"
The brain’s capacity for musical experience and its capacity for spiritual experience both involve feelings and awarenesses outside the realm of words and reason, outside of any conscious purpose other than itself. Though they ultimately touch the wordless, we quickly begin constructing words all around them – words to describe related parts that can be described. Both musical and spiritual experience connect us with others, and then feed upon that connection to grow more intense.
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This is part 2 of 3 of "Desiring Music"
Part 1: Music: More Real than Reality
Part 3: Music, Spirituality, and Seeing the World Rightly