Sunday, January 31, 2016

How Music Builds Community

One of my delightful musical colleagues, Dale LePage often says something I believe to be true, "music is magic." I have felt its magic since I was very young, both for the way music lives inside of me, and for the way it touches others and brings people together in a deep, tangible way, often much deeper than words can express.

When I have led weekend retreats or extended personal growth workshops, I have always brought along a wide variety of music, knowing that moments might arise where a particular song or piece of music might capture or frame the moment, or be exactly what someone needs to hear to heal or open their heart.

One thing that struck me as I played the song that captured the moment was that not only did the person who was doing the healing turn benefit from the music, but also so did all the other people in the group and in the room. A song that captured the moment also captured and connected the hearts of all the people sharing the moment.

I have had the same experience both as a singer performing and as an audience member taking in live music. Through putting together a program, and choosing the songs, reflections to share in between songs, and even the instruments for a particular arrangement of a song, I feel like I am working in a special medium--like an artist working with clay that can be sculpted into all kinds of emotional possibility.

As I share a song, the subtext, the story and the feeling of the song translate well beyond the words. My heart can share time and space with the energy of other people's hearts. Whether on the giving or receiving end of this musical heart energy, I can feel people coming together as community in a listening room.

Here are some of the ways music builds community:

Music speaks to the common ground of our human experience

The themes and stories one finds in songs cover the full emotional gamut of the human experience: love found, love lost, hopes and dreams, relationships with children, parents, friends and lovers, nature, the world around us, special places, special moments, and how each of these makes us feel. We can all agree "What the world needs now is love."

Music is a universal language

While there are many styles of music, some unique to individual cultures, that most all cultures have music is universal. We don't need to be from one culture to be moved by the sounds of another culture's music. There is something about music itself that reaches beyond words. And words too may be part of the spirit and emotion expressed through a song or other piece of music.

Music has a vibration that resonates with our bodies and hearts

We are electromagnetic energy beings. Our bodies feel vibrations and can attune or align with them. Different pitches resonate with different energy centers in the body. And different qualities of sound touch us in different ways. We are touched at the vibrational level as well as the emotional level.

Music allows us to join our voices and hearts

When people play or sing together, there is a communion or joining of hearts and spirits through shared playing or singing. If we sing in harmony with others, we feel our place within the harmony and we hear and feel the different sounds above and below ours. In this sense we become part of a musical fabric, one that connects and expresses our hearts and soul.

Shared music becomes its own common language

Whether a television show has a theme song, a country has a national anthem or a high school reunion DJ plays songs from the years everyone was in school together, hearing this music is a common language that is recognizable, evokes memories and images, and holds shared experience. Songs represent social movements, like "We shall overcome." They represent a coming together in good times or tough times, like "We are the world."

Music can be created or experienced alone or with others, but its power to bring us together or feel connected carries through however we experience it! Music really can bridge most all divides and strengthen most any connection.