Have you ever taken the time to truly listen to a piece of music? You might have listened with your ears, but have you ever listened with your heart? I have listened to many piano classics before and have also gone to hear the symphony, but it wasn’t ’til after I had a conversation with a friend of mine, that I was challenged to listen to music like I never had before.
Recently I watched a movie that followed the life of Trappists monks who lived in the mid-1990’s in Muslim territory. At one point they had all gathered together for their simple quiet meal during which they listened to a piece of music. However during it they all started tearing up and smiling at each other. Why were they crying? They were crying because they had learned to appreciate true beauty. They gave up everything of this world to live frugal, simple, and poor lives for Christ and as a result learned what is true beauty. For those few moments they felt like they were experiencing a sliver of heaven’s beauty. And out poured tears of joy. “Music withdraws our minds from earthly cogitations, lifts up our spirits into heaven, makes them light and celestial.” (Saint John Chrysostom)
A painting in song, a story written through melodies, and a harmony of emotions, music has the power to make us feel sad or happy, wanted or lonesome, and strong or helpless. Without intense music, movies wouldn’t be as scary. Without romantic music, it wouldn’t grab as much at our emotions. But with music, beauty can be experienced at a whole new level. I realized this after I challenged myself to interpret how different musical compositions made me feel and what picture they painted. After spending 2-3 hours listening to different songs (without words), I realized how much more beauty is out there. People travel the world, go to museums, and study history to see artistry. However when they think they have gotten everything, they may not realize there is a whole new realm of works of art to be heard. “Music is the exaltation of the mind derived from things eternal, bursting forth in sound.” (St. Thomas Aquinas)
There is music all around us that it is sometimes taken for granted. God has given us ears to hear the music of His creation and it can be more than just a piano. It can be the birds in the morning, the waves crashing against the shore, or the rain pattering against the roof. I challenge you to truly listen to a piece of music and figure out what emotions it evokes, story it tells, or picture it paints for you. Each person is different, but special in his own way.
A Glimpse of What I Felt
One song I’ve always particularly liked is “Rolling Thunder” by Lionel Yu (this guy plays it really well and has a bunch of other great videos!), but I never knew quite why except that I thought it sounded nice. However when my friend challenged me to find three songs that greatly made me feel, I decided to truly listen to this song. Then it hit me. I liked this song because it painted the story of a trying day that ends with Adoration. This is what I saw in it: The music starts out slow and then picks up the speed like a quiet morning into a stressful, busy, and trying day. The intensity of the music is long and hard, but it eventually ends just like every day will do. Then the song quiets down and the moment becomes peaceful as if I now stepped into adoration. Calm music continues as I begin to pray and forget about the day, my thoughts turn only to our Lord. Gradually the piano picks up, but it still has a nice tone to it as I speak to Christ and pour my heart out to Him. Sound builds louder though when my guilt begins to weigh down upon me as I see the crucifix and sorrow pours out. The music continues to grow as do my emotions and shame for the sins I have are laid at his feet. The moment is deep and powerful and emptying. However, after I have laid my whole broken self at his feet, the music stops. I have emptied myself and the music is once again slow and peaceful. Christ has taken me into his arms and I have found peace.
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