Since a child, I always had a strong connection between music and the things that I do. I have vivid memories of walking the tundra of Baffin Island with my dog, and making up songs and melodies relating to such things as the day’s reflection, the beauty of creation, and the challenges of growing up with elder sisters.
As I continued to grow and develop, my musical tastes and abilities changed. Life in my world was interspersed with trombone practice, vocal and piano lessons, and a medley of rehearsals with choirs and bands. I grew to love Palestrina, Handel, Gillespie, Fitzgerald, and countless more, while also exploring U2, the Police, the Indigo Girls, and others.
These days I find myself struggling to keep up with the plethora of musicians, styles, and approaches. I upload all my daughters’ music so that I can attempt to engage in conversation, at least at some level, with their interests and passions. I listen passively, somewhat, to music, while moving from one place to another. Music is part of my daily life and practice; writing and praying, singing, reflecting, relaxing, and being.
Music informs my beliefs, helps to shape my daily actions, my reflections upon the state of the community of faith and of the wider community wherein God dwells. Music helps to bring me persistence and perseverance, comfort and balm. Music goads me into action from a passive observance of events, to active learning, direct intervention at times, and most definitely to increased advocacy and justice bringing.
My daily reflections concerning music remind me that as we look back in history, we have anemic accounts of the life and witness of humanity. We have texts, art pieces, architecture, remains, yes. In all of this, however, we do not have the sounds of life in community and in history (nor do we have smells or tastes, incidentally). The record that we have of the past, is less than our remembrance of it. Take Wednesdays in Lent at the Ascension, for example. Since 2008, we have been praying the stations of the cross using a liturgy from the Iona Community, images copied from the College of the Resurrection, Mirfield, and music from Ennio Morricone’s The Mission. Each time we gather, I put The Mission on shuffle. Each week the stations are transformed because the music and the experience differs. The community changes week to week and year to year, the order of the music is never the same, and the readers of the Scriptures vary week to week. In years to come, someone will find the order of worship, the stark words on a page. No one will be able to recreate the community nor the numinous in the sound of music and voice.
I have no doubt that I understand little the intricacies of the relationship between sounds and human experience. Yet, my life is surrounded by sound and song, prayer and action. I face the challenges of the day in this life, with music in my head, that has the opportunity to become a part of the music of my heart and soul. Not all of the soundtracks I hear will impress themselves upon my soul. I am sure that the music that resonates with God’s presence and realm will forever be a part of my journey.