Music has always been a part of life for me. I started playing the clarinet in 5th grade and that was my main instrument through college. Over the years, I added a few instruments to my repertoire including the mellophone, acoustic guitar, alto saxophone, a bit of piano, and a handful of percussion instruments. I earned a Bachelor of Music in Music Therapy from Michigan State University in 1999, and have worked in and out of the field since then. I’ve played in concert, symphony, jazz, community, marching and praise bands, and I’ve sung in MSU’s State Singers and Chamber Choir.
So it should go without saying that I listen to a fair bit of music. I’ve been exposed to music as a student, a parent, a therapist and as a general appreciator of the arts. I’ve heard lots and lots of music and discover new-t0-me artists on a regular basis, yet I always feel like I’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg.
Music elicits emotional response, to be sure. But musical preference can be a mysterious thing. What I like may not be congruent with what you like for lots of reasons. Exposure, experiences, personality, connection, relevance, etc. In my elementary years, I listened to artists like Michael Jackson and Billy Joel. In my early teens it was Sir Mix-a-Lot and Public Enemy. In my high school years, I shifted to bands like Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Morphine, Rage Against the Machine, and on and on. My point is, as I grew, more and more artists came into view, and tastes changed and evolved as my emotional development and life circumstances did.
Maybe my spiritual growth over the past few years, then, has helped dictate what I’ve been finding more meaning in lately. It’s artists like Eva Cassidy, Nick Drake, Lisa Hannigan and Regina Spektor, to name a few, who currently dominate my listening queue. These artists share one particular quality that stands out to me:
Such soft voices singing powerful lyrics over sparse or quirky musical structures give me chills and often bring me to tears. I think it’s the sense of quiet strength that appeals to me spiritually, like a mantra repeated silently through breath in meditation. These artists give something of themselves in their music. As many times as I’ve listened to Eva Cassidy’s rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow, it still makes me cry almost every time, especially right around the 4-minute mark.
Do yourself a favor and take a few minutes to listen to this song. Intentional listening is what we’re going for. Press play, close your eyes if you feel so moved, get quiet and really take it all in. Pain, longing, strength, beauty, hope… It’s all in there.
Even if it doesn’t suit your musical taste, I’m confident it stirred up some kind of emotion. More importantly, I hope you’ll see just how powerful gentleness can be. In a time of fierce competition for jobs, civil unrest around the world, parenting, political commentators shouting at us and spinning stories for the sake of news-worthiness and even the simple aspects of daily living, we need ways of unleashing our underlying emotions and feeling empowered and in control. This is one such way for me.
The next time I feel the urge to shout at another driver or one of my kids, the next time I get angry or fearful and feel the need to exert control over another human being, may I remember this proverb:
“Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong.” ~ Lao-Tzu
Enlightening from the bungalow,
What is one of the ways you find strength. In what situations have you found that quiet is more effective than loud?