Sunday, June 30, 2013

Soul Food

This morning I am listening to Barber’s Adagio for Strings. When I was in my early 20s I finally got around to reading CSL’s Chronicles of Narnia. I don’t remember why, but each time I picked up one of the books, Barber’s Adagio is what I listened to. So now, whenever I hear it, I am transported to Narnia

Music can be powerful. I think Huxley was correct in saying that, after silence, music comes the closest to “expressing the inexpressible.”

My first experience with the potentially transcendent nature of music was when I heard Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, the summer before my 6th grade year. Dad walked in, saw me, and yelled out to my mother, “Billie! He is crying … over music!” I didn’t realize I was crying. To this day I cannot listen to Beethoven’s music without a profound sense of ineffable beauty and joy. Then again, this can also be said about so many, many other scores of music.

Music, for me, elicits such deep emotional responses. This is how joy, or grief, or madness, or death, or love, sounds. I know that I am not alone here. Even those individuals who do not think about such things finds themselves gravitating toward music that makes them feel a certain way, creates a specific psychological state, and avoiding music that creates unwanted feelings.

Soul Food
Some music is like cotton candy for the brain: too much of it leads to brain-decay. Then there is the jellybean music that gives us happy feet and faces. Jellybeans are awesome but not as your primary food group. And who hasn’t indulged their taste buds with the crème brulee of sappy, sentimental, or maudlin music?  “O, honey. (Sniff. Sniff.) Doesn’t this remind you of Sparky? He was such a good dog.” However, what about music that transports and enriches the soul? What about music that transports your soul into the transcendent where you encounter love, beauty, and goodness?

Some people have said to me, “Wilson, you have to have a taste for such music. I don’t.” You said the same thing to your mother, when she told you to eat your vegetables. I notice that when you became a man, you actually started enjoying broccoli, eh? When you were a child, you ate as a child, or tried to. Now that you are an adult, I suggest that you put some limits on that childish diet, and develop a taste for what nourishes the soul. Or not. It’s your soul.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2013

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