Much Ado About Music
“Is it not strange that sheep’s guts should hale souls out
of men’s bodies?”
Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing Act II Scene iii
Cynical as Benedick may be, I think he has a point. It is a strange thing – the relationship between man and music.
Despite being generally, loosely “musical”, I have a deficiency when it comes to my emotional connection to it. It’s all physics and skill, ultimately. The musician is an illusionist. The sound, the feeling, the sense and coherence of a piece of music is a meeting of minds between the composer/writer and the audience through the medium of the musician. It’s a fabricated experience that is fundamentally inessential.
Don’t worry. I know I am probably wrong. I know that one day it is likely I will change my mind – but for now I am happy that ‘to be in a minority of one does not make you mad’.
Emotion through music is learned. The stressful music on Masterchef makes chopping an onion feel like a life and death moment. Soaring orchestral strains make a sweeping landscape all the more sweeping. Mute the TV and it’s an onion and a view.
We learn from infancy what scary music is, what happy music is – there’s pitch, key, tempo and probably hundreds of other factors that go into a musical moment – and we learn what we are supposed to feel as a response.
However – last night I witnessed sheep’s guts haling souls out of men’s bodies. Or as good as.
We had a harp recital in the church hall. (Hence yesterday’s post…) A harpist, a violinist and an audience. It was live, it was local, it was…
It was out of a world that doesn’t usually touch us here in suburbia. Music written so many years ago given a brief, ephemeral incarnation through the effort, focus and skill of the musicians.
In a way, the illusion I usually sense was refreshingly absent, in that every note could be seen being physically formed and sounded. The lack of illusion led to general sense of wonder that these skills and these instruments could come together as they did and present us with a very special and surprising evening. So simple, so human – and yet dazzlingly complex.
Did my soul succumb?
Not to the music, but perhaps a little to the whole experience. It was a brilliant night because it was a live, shared, community moment – echoing the past and creating a shared memory of wonder.