Music is amazing.
Like most people, I like music. Love it, even. I’m a music fanatic. Granted, I know nothing of music theory. I can’t tell an accented passing tone from a minor fifth, nor could I tell you what either of those things are. But the fact remains that I love and will always love good music.
I have broad taste. It strikes me that those who stick to only one or two genres of music seem to be missing out on a lot that the world has to offer. Some people will only listen to songs of a specific kind (country, rock, R&B, classical, gospel, etc.) to the exclusion of all others, determined never to open their ears to something they are unfamiliar with. As a general rule I avoid evaluating songs by their categories, and try to judge the song on its own merit (if any).While I cannot claim any specific genre as my favorite, I have more favorite songs in Broadway and Classical than anywhere else, with a good chunk of Irish and Scottish traditional ballads thrown in as well as select film sound tracks (Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia being at the top of the list), and of course most of the hymns known to mankind.
I, as well as most laymen music-overs of the world, judge songs based on how they make me feel. I am one of those people who almost always has a song running through her head. As to what song, that is based entirely on my mood.
Some songs always make me smile. They’re the rainy Monday songs that you play just because the sun isn’t shining and you want to feel better about life. Songs like “Out There,” “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” “Mama Mia,” “Daydream Believer,” “My Favorite Things,” “Confidence,” or “Seventy-Six Trombones.” Some songs are so deliciously joyful that they’re in the running for my (as of yet purely fictional) wedding recessional, like “The Jellicle Ball” from Cats or “The Rap” by the Celtic group The Secret Garden.
Then there are the running songs. Though I am not so blessed as to own an iPod, I like to loop songs in my brain while I run. These are the ones with driving rhythm and inescapable energy. Power songs. “Don’t Rain on My Parade” is one. Also “Holding out for a Hero,” “The Battle” and “Wunderkind” from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, “Mambo” and “America” from West Side Story, and “He’s a Pirate” from Pirates of the Caribbean. “Somebody That I Used to Know” puts me in a fighting mood that gets me running a little faster when I run it through my brain.
And everyone has songs that they love out of nostalgia. All Christmas music falls under this category, as well as most songs from Disney movies. Few Disney songs can be appreciated for depth of content, but all of them can be loved for their singable melodies and the fact that just about all of us grew up with them being played constantly. And most girls still hum “A Dream is a Wish” half out of nostalgia and half out a firm belief that the song isn’t lying. All songs by the group Libera rocket me back to when I was an elementary school student in art class producing awful charcoal drawings while mesmerized by the sound of the boys’ choir.
Then there are songs that bring tears to your eyes, no matter what mood you were in before you heard it. A lot of these songs fall into this category by guilt of association: some of the cheeriest or sweetest songs in the world can fit in this slot in our minds if we associate it with someone or something that, for whatever reason, is no longer in our lives. I love the hymn “Be Still My Soul,” but every time I hear it I can only think of a boy I knew who sung that hymn to himself in the middle of the night while he was dying of cancer. “It Is Well with My Soul” was sung at my grandfather’s funeral, and that’s who I think of every time I hear it. Some of these “sad” songs only have that label temporarily. It used to be I couldn’t bear to listen to “My White Knight,” even though it’s one of my favorite songs. After a while, my aversion to the song faded and I started loving it again. Currently, the entire soundtrack of The Lion King makes me rather embarrassingly weepy, as does Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” and select songs by Michael Bublé—but only by guilt of association. In a month or so, I’ll probably be able to sing “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” in the shower as loudly as the average enthusiastic four-year-old who also loves that movie.
The songs of the day today were the final three tracks of The Return of the King soundtrack. In these brilliantly composed passages by Howard Shore, the penultimate emotions and revelations of Frodo’s journey are captured in the folds of music that is half sorrow and half rejoicing. While this music plays, we see on the screen Frodo waking up in Minas Tirith, the coronation of Aragorn, the return to Hobbiton, and the departure of Frodo from the Grey Havens. Without fail, these songs remind me, oddly, of growing up, of finishing my days at Anytown Academy, of coming to the end of any chapter in my life. For whatever reason, I forget about these songs until spring, when graduation comes in a flurry of goodbyes and partings. There’s something about the song “Into the West” that reminds me of every time I have had to say goodbye to someone. Every single time.
Alright, I know you’re waiting for it. Usually I don’t ramble this long about my life or my personal tastes before making some broader, more universal application. Believe me when I say I wrote all this largely because I couldn’t think of anything else to say and I haven’t done a long post in a while, so here you go.
Let’s go back to my opening sentence. Music, I repeat, is amazing.
Music alone has the power to express what words alone could never say. Music can speak at once of beginnings and endings, death and rebirth, triumph and tragedy. Words alone cannot make us want to get up and dance—they need the help of rhythm and notes and vibrancy. One chord, properly placed, can hold more than a library of books. Music can hold our attention where human words fail to do so, and keep us spellbound as we ride the overlapping waves of sound, rhythm, energy, and emotion.
No wonder, then, that the Lord asks us to praise Him with a joyful noise, with the sound of stringed instruments and trumpets, with shouts of joy. He doesn’t want us to sit down and shut up, to keep out praise to ourselves. No. He wants to hear us. He made music to glorify Himself. He made music to be the language of the heart, able to carry every emotion He ever gave to man. He gave us voices so that we could raise them. He gave us hearts that would sway to the sound of “I Surrender All.” He made us capable of making a joyful noise.
Science tells us that the stars produce a low-frequency hum too deep to be detected by human ears. Birds sing with flute-like calls. Thunder booms like a celestial percussion section of a divine orchestra. And human voices—the voices of the young, the old, the rich, the poor, the well-known, the unknown—are all capable of singing, of shouting, of praising.
The universe is an orchestra. God is the conductor. History is His symphony, His masterpiece. And all the music we know and love is but an echo of the music our ears have yet to hear: the final “Hallelujahs” that will ring through heaven when time stops and eternity begins.
Music is amazing.