Sunday, August 4, 2013

Musical Hygiene


Our mouth feels grungy and music brushes our teeth. Our face is caked with dust and music lathers us up and washes it clean. Our stomach growls and music fills our belly. Loneliness creeps up on us and music embraces us with a loving hug. The libido screams for attention and music brings us to climax. Weariness sits on our shoulders and music gently lies it down and leads us by the hand to sleep.

In my recent lecture at the SF Orff Course, I began with the three questions of my TEDx talk:

  1. Who here is a musician?
  2. Who is musical?
  3. Who likes music?

And then proceeded to suggest that Orff Schuwerk properly done feeds all three. I began with the third, asking why it is that the answer is almost always 100% (with some exceptions—see my June blog “Music for All?”).

Music is rarely static. It swells and quiets, speeds up and slows down, builds in complexity and rests in simplicity. And so do we. Our bodies are in a constant state of disequilibrium seeking equilibrium, disquiet aiming for homeostasis. Food, drink and sleep are the fuels that recharge, refresh, satiate and calm us, helped along by exercise, work, play, sex. And so the structures and vibrations of music hit us directly and become the food, drink, sleep, sex, work and play of our sonic world. As vibration speaks to vibration, our bodily rhythms change— heartbeat, breath, brainwaves—and as they move, so are we moved. Emotion means a movement inside, a change in various rhythms that translates as feeling. And so music speaks our feeling and equally creates our feeling life.

And so we all need music. Those soaked in a culture steeped in music are given what they need. Those who need formal music education can get it also and by playing an instrument or singing in a choir or dancing in an ensemble, have a deeper and clearer understanding, and thus, appreciation, of music.  The music teacher delivers a deep human necessity, increasing our pleasure in listening to music. Just listening to music seems passive, but in fact, there is a subtle dance going on inside us with each note we hear— we are actively engaged and the more we understand because we are led to understanding, the more intricate the dance is. Playing music increases our capacity to listen to music. In short, music education matters.

And so ended Part One of my talk. (Parts Two and Three to follow.) Now to brush my teeth with a little solo piano alone in the theater at night.

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