The Sound of Music

First published October 2018

The Reverend John Chandler considers the impact of music on our lives.

I had a friend who felt seasick when listening to the theme from ‘The Onedin Line’. Our neighbour says he jogs better and longer when wearing headphones. A colleague always writes his sermons with a CD playing in the background. I can relate to all of that, because we all know the power of music. But I’ve never been able to work out why music does what it does; what it is in the human brain, psyche and spirit that is so affected by music in all its forms.

I can imagine that most of us are encouraged or enthused by particular kinds of music – whether the Last Night of the Proms, bagpipes, Glenn Miller or (insert here the name of a rap artist or the latest group I’ve never heard of!).

It seems music has a unique ability to help us identify with – connect with – one could say get in tune with – every part of our lives, in one way or another. I have found that music helps us to be:

  • in tune with ourselves: music can help us meditate, calm ourselves, comfort ourselves, fire us up and so much more. I suspect that many of us find it hard to make space in our diaries for ‘me time’ when we can just listen to the rhythms of life, but those who guide my ministry stress the benefit of doing so. I want to be better at following their advice!
  • in tune with God: ‘Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord’ says St. Paul (Ephesians 5:9). People have been doing that for many thousands of years, and there are loads of hymns and Psalms in the Bible. Much of the rich musical heritage of western civilisation has religious worship at its heart and as its purpose, and singing is very much a part of modern services. It’s one way of letting out our emotions to God, and also demonstrating our togetherness.
  • in tune with community: there are many ways in which music demonstrates the togetherness of community. Nothing can match actually being in the audience of a pop concert or in the crowd at a football match, and join thousands of people singing in unison. It’s been proved that singing and clapping as a crowd can be so ‘together’ that it can be precise to a few thousandths of a second – how’s that for community togetherness?

You obviously know your own musical tastes, and could (if you haven’t already) choose eight discs for that desert island where music would do what music does. And there are always lots of local opportunities, in churches, theatres, village Halls to exercise your love of music. Why not find out where and when they are – and make a note?

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