Saturday, September 26, 2009

Musicianship of the Soul

When I was five years old, I told my parents that I wanted to play the piano. My older brother played the clarinet and my older sister played the flute, so naturally I assumed that playing an instrument was simply what people did, and I was certain that the piano was the one for me. I also remember us siblings having our own record player, and I would close the door to my room and turn up the music - loud! You might think that sounds like a typical thing for a kid to do, but this five year old sorted through the classical recordings in my parents' cabinet and selected according to the pictures on the sleeve. Names like Mozart, Bizet, and Schubert were quite beyond my reading ability and titles like "Swan Lake" or Piano Concerto made no sense. After all, what was an 'Opus' anyway?

I have played the piano since childhood, and although I am not a professional musician, I still play seriously. I was certainly no prodigy, but music took me deep into my soul - a place I went often and with intention. You see, I have always thought that making beautiful music and making a beautiful soul are much the same process. Both require passion, conviction, sensitivity, discipline, and imagination. Both take time, great effort, determination, and dogged practice. There are plenty of mistakes made along the way and they often become the source of the deepest learnings, propelling the seeker to the depths. I have never been able to be a casual musician or a casual spirit.

All I can say about casual musicians is from observation and not direct knowledge.  It seems to me that a casual musician only scratches the surface of profound beauty. If one does not truly understand what it means to explore and recreate the complexities, subtleties, and depths of a single phrase from a Mozart piano concerto, the enjoyment is but a fraction of the awesome beauty. The genius of the composer! The simplicity of the harmony! The skill of the musician! The capabilities of the instrument! What an incredible journey of creation. The casual musician misses so much! The casual soul is in the same predicament.

I just recently reread the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. In The Magician's Nephew, Lewis describes the creation of Narnia. Aslan, the lion, sings Narnia into being. With each note, a new star appears in the sky. A new melody causes the land to form or plants to spring up from the earth. As the symphony progresses, animals are created, and Aslan breathes the breath of life into them. Creation and sound are the same movement of the Creator. Music has a hand in bringing forth new life!

This is what music means to my soul. Spiritual creation and musical creation are the same movement. Music sings my soul into being. To say that I can not be a casual musician nor a casual spirit is to say that the essence of life, the presence of God, is found in making music. For me, playing the piano is a form of prayer and an integral part in the creation and re-creation of my spirit.