Because Life can only be lived a moment at a time.

Play On

“A person who...does not regard music as a marvelous creation of God, must be a clodhopper indeed and does not deserve to be called a human being; he should be permitted to hear nothing but the braying of asses and the grunting of hogs."
[Foreword to Georg Rhau's (1488-1548) Collection Symphoniae iucundae, 1538]
― Martin Luther

Martin Luther was on to something.

Mr. Pettit and I attended two ceremonial events in the past week:  A wedding and a funeral.  Music was invited to both gatherings; it amplified celebration at one and eased grief at the other.

At some point we’ve all been asked whether we’d rather become blind or deaf---that question is a good way to jump-start a conversation that’s ready to move on from the weather but not quite up to a discussion of federalism.  I might be in the minority, but I’ve always chosen the “blind” option, because as much as I’d hate to lose the sight of my loved ones’ faces or the glory of a harvest moon the idea of living without music is worse.

As I write this I’m listening to the “Silver Screen” channel on DIRECTV.  Only you, dear readers, can speak to the quality of my work, but I can say the words flow more readily when I write with a musical accompaniment.   “Also Sprach Zarathustra” (the 2001: A Space Odyssey theme) is playing now.  I feel the urge to write about majestic, monumental things, to dip my toe into the creation of the universe.

The hymns and instrumental pieces played at our niece’s wedding underscored both the seriousness of the vows being made and the joy of the couple making them.   What if Clark’s “Trumpet Voluntary,” Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring,” and Wagner’s “Bridal Chorus” had been missing from the proceedings? A wedding without music would be like a ham sandwich without Duke’s mayonnaise: dry and incomplete.  (Duke’s mayonnaise is the greatest condiment ever created by man.  This is an incontrovertible fact.)

The soaring melodies of the ceremony gave way to the no-holds-barred celebratory tunes of the reception.  Current dance music combined with disco, country and South Carolina beach music to keep all the ladies and a few intrepid gentlemen on their feet.  “Carolina Girls” restored momentary youth to those of us who relinquished our girlhood long ago.

While we were away at the wedding we received word that a friend from church had died.  We attended his funeral two days after our return home.

The news of his death was not unexpected; this good man had not been in good health for some time, and his condition had worsened dramatically in recent months.  Still, goodbyes are never good; I’m grateful that once again music showed up.

Two pastors recited Scripture and shared memories of our friend, but the songs bypassed my brain and spoke to my heart in its native language.  The selection was eclectic: “Loving God, Loving Each Other” sung by a family friend and recordings of “How Great Thou Art” by Elvis and “Go Rest High on That Mountain” by Vince Gill.  Say what you will about Elvis, his drugs, and his fried peanut butter-and-banana-sandwiches, that man could sing as if he were in a quartet with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

I came across this quote by Dietrich Bonhoeffer that sums up the soothing effect of music at funerals: “Music... will help dissolve your perplexities and purify your character and sensibilities, and in time of care and sorrow, will keep a fountain of joy alive in you.”

“A fountain of joy”:  Those words make me smile.   When I read newspapers these days it seems folks are becoming brittle, tightly wound creatures, ready to snap or lash out at any real or imagined offense. I wonder if regular doses of George Strait or Frank Sinatra or Mozart would coax them back from the edge and allow them to reconnect with their nonverbal selves.  What would happen if the world had less computing and more Copland?

Let the music play, be it Beethoven or Bentley, Paganini or Pitbull, Shostakovich or Shakira.  Play on.   

Playground Theology

For Daddy