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Sunday, April 6, 2014

Music and ultimate reality - part two

I thought that I would take this opportunity to talk about music again. This time I'm going to get a little more philosophical. So, you've been warned. Now the picture above was taken in 2004, before I had my wonderful digital SLR camera which goes with me on all my trips. It was a live (and free) concert given at Butchert Gardens in Victoria, BC. I have no idea who the group was, but I can tell you that they were performing some celtic folk music, as the afternoon was moving rapidly into evening. They were simply playing and singing, and their music was absolutely magical. And the crowd listening to their music were held in a trance as they performed. Now, this was absolutely real music, and captured those around in its spell.

Now, let me take you back a few more years, to my childhood, when I took fourth grade in summer school (because we were going to be going back to India, and rather than let me just lag for a year, my parents decided to put me in summer school, so I could at least get the arithmetic) - anyway summer school was a lot of fun for me, because we got to do cool things, like go on field trips. On one field trip, we went to downtown Boston, to hear the Boston Pops orchestra (complete with Arthur Fiedler) play outdoors on the Esplanade. To this day I can remember every piece that was played (Rossini's Overture to The Thieving Magpie, Haydn's Symphony No. 100, and Mendelssohn's First Piano Concerto, played by some 12 year old Korean girl). Now why would I remember that concert all these years later?

I have a theory, that it was the music that burned in my memory. Now, why would this happen? What is it about music that makes things so much more memorable and profound? I firmly believe that music is that which gives things it "touches" an extra dimension. And to me music is from some other dimension of experience. Think about it - music is universal. All people all over the world have music, and we define our special occasions with it. Our moments of celebration, our moments of joy and sorrow are accompanied by music. We hold in high esteem those who are gifted with it - either as performers or composers.

And that term "gifted" seems particularly appropriate. For I do believe that is what it is - a gift.

And what of our music industry? Why do we spend so much of our hard-earned money, and our time on something which, on the surface, seems so counterproductive? Now what good is music? Is there survival advantage in it? No. And yet we spend countless dollars, and countless hours seeking it. It does not make us stronger, smarter, or more attractive. And yet it is all around us - it's in our stores, restaurants, and even there on the phone when we are on hold.

Music, to me, represents that part of us which longs for another dimension, and for which we have a deep yearning. It is not going to get us there, but music can most certainly point the way, if one lets it. Now all this may sound like a lot of blather, but the next time you hear one of your favorite pieces being played, either live or recorded, just stop. Just listen. Just let the music happen to you, and remember we are the only privileged species to whom music means anything more than noise.

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