I love to listen to music pretty much every day. I think almost everyone likes some type of music. There are so many types with their subcategories, that it would be too time consuming to research them and then list them here, but just to name a few more well-known types: Classical, Blues, Jazz, Gospel, Country, and Rock. I typed in “types of rock music” in Yahoo, and went to the first link. I stopped counting at 50 types, and there were at least 100 if not more. It seems there’s something for everyone.
All cultures down through the ages have used music: Some as part of rituals, such as the rhythmic beating of voodoo drums; some as part of worship and reverence to God, such as singing hymns in church; some as part of dancing; and the list could go on and on. The ancient Greeks recognized the order of the universe in musical sound forms. By the Middle Ages, the mathematical parallels between music and nature led people to believe that one could imitate the work of the divine by creating music. To them, music offered humans a direct line to the creator, a source of comfort when survival was tenuous at best. But how is music really spiritual? It is spiritual if it conveys the “spirit” of its creators, and that is simply an attitude towards life – a set of values; certain kinds of music may mesh with your values better than other kinds, and so you may see it as more spiritual; hard rock, full of aggression, might be spiritual to an aggresive, egoistic type of person. Classical music may be spiritual to someone who was raised in priviledge and “refinement”. (When I think of this kind of person, my mind for some reason goes to the TV show “MASH”. Charles Emerson Winchester III loved classical music; and he thought he was superior to everyone else. Not that those who like Mozart are snobs…lol.) To southerners country and bluegrass may be their thing. Back in the 90’s the scene in Seattle was grunge. Musicians like Kurt Cobain probably didn’t associate their music with spirituality, and their fans probably didn’t either, but it was nevertheless. The great composer Beethoven said of music:
“Music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life. Although the spirit be not master of that which it creates through music, yet it is blessed in this creation, which, like every creation of art, is mightier than the artist.”
I’ll admit I had to read the quote several times and had to break it down in order to understand it (my excuse is that Old English is difficult to understand, and Beethoven was Austrian, so maybe the quote was translated from German; or maybe I’m just a blathering idiot…) But I think he was saying that the music we create blesses our soul and transcends even the artist himself.
Music is called the universal language of the world for many reasons. According to Sapan Shah, first and foremost, music is made up of 7 main notes. No matter what part of the world in which you are, and what instrument you play, all music created is one of the 7 notes. There may be different names for all 7 notes in different parts of the world, but for the performer, they are still the same. Secondly, music being a form of art, can reach the deepest parts of your heart and soul. As long as any melody and rhythm make you feel yourself, it is the best doctor a person can find, and the best remedy anyone can recommend. Thirdly, music, like any other language, can express any and every type of emotion. When words fail to express a feeling, music can go on and on vocalizing all that you ever want to say. The spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy said, “Music is the inner or universal language of God. I do not know French or German or Italian. But if music is played, immediately the heart of the music enters into my heart, or my heart enters into the music. At that time, we do not need outer communication; the inner communion of the heart is enough. My heart is communing with the heart of the music and in our communion we become inseparably one.” (This reminds me of the German heavy metal band Rammstein. They have a song called, “Du Hast” that is sung entirely in German. I love that song. It wasn’t until I heard the English version that I found out what it was about. So it wasn’t the lyrics that spoke to me so much as the music.) So music has the capacity to bring people together. It is something that unites rather than divides. Many who attended Woodstock of 1969 felt it was a unique occasion when so many people were attracted by the ideal of harmony and friendship that transcended any cultural or racial barrier. Oneness and harmony is an indispensable part of spirituality; music helps this to become a reality.
Music also sends an important message to the listener. It may be to love one another, such as John Lennon’s “Imagine”. Or it may be simply expressing emotions as stated above. Elvis sang, “Suspicious Minds”, about a woman who doesn’t trust her man. How many of us can relate to that? Many people may say, “That’s all well and good, but what good purpose does hard rock and heavy metal serve?” They wake the listener up. Though many of the lyrics are “complaining” about life, sometimes it takes that attitude to make people see that you don’t have to just accept the ideals that society hands you; you can question the status quo. Indirectly, you’re being told to be yourself and follow your heart. You can choose a path of love and enlightenment, rather than going with “the herd.” But what about songs where you can’t understand the lyrics, such as “Du Hast”? Just attend any random heavy metal/thrash concert, and I promise you that you’ll see thousands of teenagers banging their heads to songs whose lyrics are unrecognizable. So what is the appeal? I think people, especially teenagers and the economically disadvantaged, have a lot of frustration and anger that they need to express in a healthy way. Banging their heads to Slayer, and jumping wildly into a mosh pit, allows them to release that negative energy.
So no matter what type of music you enjoy, remember that it is bringing you closer to God/The Divine/The Absolute/The Universe – whatever you want to call it. And just because you may not particularly care for a certain type of music, remember that it is bringing someone else somewhere closer to that same “God”. To quote the immortal Shakespeare:
“If music be the food of life, play on”.