Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Music on Purpose

Victor Hugo once said "Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent”.  Albert Einstein said "If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.”   And then there's one of my favourite music quotes, from Woody Allen, who said "I just can't listen to any more Wagner, you know...I'm starting to get the urge to conquer Poland.”  Which is pretty fabulous really, because it sums up just how powerful music really is.

I can't hear a swinging big band without getting a huge, dorky grin on my face.  I can't hear a great dance song without tapping my foot and starting to dance in my chair.  I can't be grumpy when 'Aint no mountain high enough' is playing on the radio. I can't hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing one of the gospel's beautiful hymns without feeling a peace settle over my heart and notice my emotions start to calm and settle.  I can't listen to a beautiful huge romantic orchestral rendition of one of the great composers without feeling my soul swell a little. I can't be alone in the car without singing loudly to whatever music's on the radio (or is playing in my head).  And I can't listen to a wonderful singer sing any song that means something to them, without getting a little emotional and - again - finding that dorky grin spreading inevitably across my face.  In short, I can't hear Wagner, without wanting to conquer Poland.

Now, If you know me, you know that music is a pretty big part of my life.  I've played the piano forever (and will be forever grateful to my parents for the lessons and encouragement), and I've done a lot of singing over the years.  So it would make sense that I have a bit of a love affair with music.

BUT the wonderful (wonderful) thing about music is that it's an absolutely universal language.  You don't have to be musical, or play the piano, or even carry a tune very well, to be able to enjoy it.  I'm always curious/impressed/interested/amazed at the affect music seems to have on new-borns, for example. I think I've sung quietly into the ear of each of my six nieces and nephews at one time or another while they've been crying.  And each time it noticeably soothes and calms them at least a little.  Lullabies are something special, aren't they? 

 And so, I like to use music 'on purpose'.  I'll put on a 'happy' song if I'm feeling grumpy and know need to get myself up and out of it.  I'll use hymns or beautiful classical music to bring back the spirit if I'm feeling particularly un-Christlike or upset, and I'll sing one of those same hymns if I'm trying to share my testimony of Heavenly Father or Jesus Christ - even if it's just with myself.  I'll make up songs if I need to remember a physics formula, or a quote, or a scripture.  And I love to sing simple songs with my nieces or nephews if I need to calm them down, or arrest their attention, or share a special little moment with them.

So experienced or not, it's never to late to start enjoying music.  I love this little piece by a fellow named Donald Miller:

"I never liked jazz music because jazz music doesn't resolve. But I was outside the Bagdad Theater in Portland one night when I saw a man playing the saxophone. I stood there for fifteen minutes, and he never opened his eyes.
After that I liked jazz music.

Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself. It is as if they are showing you the way."

And there we have the universal language at work :) 

Do you have a story or experience about how you use music 'on purpose'? Would love to hear from you!

xo Tammy


  1. Aw I LOVE this! I think I need to be more purposeful with my music listening too - it makes a MASSIVE difference to what I feel like doing, and how happy I feel!!! And although I don't do it often enough, I'm also soooo grateful for my viola lessons, and when I get it out to play I just fall in love with it (and Hungarian waltzes) all over again :) xo

  2. I love music. I wish I could play the piano. I will live through your musical talent Tammy! Thanks for an inspiring post. Never thought of music like that before

  3. Interesting post, Tammy! I do not remember reading that quote of Einstein's before but it's quite fascinating. How do you think in music? I do remember once reading a remark of Einstein's that there is something musical in the structure of quantum mechanics. I took that to be a reference to the intrinsic mathematical patterns that seem to underlie both music and physics - like the Fibonacci sequence that repeats in both and perhaps all the sciences. I can't even imagine having my brain work like that. How wonderful if it would! However, I am totally with you on the power that music has to sway and inspire the emotions. And as with most things, uplifting music has its opposites too... I won't say that that is jazz :) - but I agree with DM that part of the reason I don't naturally enjoy jazz is its lack of resolution. And pattern. (I know you are going to say that it's full of patterns, but then I suppose it's a question of personal pattern preference :) I wonder if DM was appreciating the jazz itself, or just the the enjoyment the saxophonist displayed..
    I love that you enjoy music so much. And that you have blessed our lives so much with your music. (Every now and then I enjoy in memory all of those delightful hours of piano practice! :)