I was reading through an old music theory textbook tonight (you know, as one does), and came across the following sentence, boldly underlined: “Indeed, music does border on the infinite, for it is intangible, invisible, and fleeting, existing only in time.” Compelled, I went back and read it again, and then again.
Traces of music have been found in the most ancient civilizations and the most primitive tribal cultures. Scientists even claim that it exists in space. It has been around for as long as anyone has been keeping track.
What is it about music that is so universally important? Music draws our emotions out, often to the point of wringing us dry. Everyone loves music. And if someone is an anomaly who does not love music, at least they don’t hate music. That would be simply inconceivable – an impossibility on par with someone watching this and not feeling their heart smile, even just a little bit.
When one is listening to music that they really love, the same “pleasure centers” in the brain light up as are associated with sex, drugs, and chocolate. My friend John Medina tells me that music recognition and comprehension are stored in many areas throughout the brain, and that this is an evolutionary response to strokes; the more areas of the brain that store a certain subject, the better chance of retaining an ability in the event that part of the brain is lost. The more areas of the brain that a subject is stored, the longer it has been around (i.e. had the chance to develop in different regions of the brain).
The fascinating thing: music is found in more areas of the brain than language. Therefore, it is safe to say that music preceded language. This is why stroke victims often lose their verbal skills, but retain musical comprehension.
I think about the verse in the bible that says, “The Lord will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17). It baffles me to think that music is part of God’s language toward us. He uses music as a communication tool, a way to interact that goes beyond just words, hence the emotional response that people often have in worship at church – or, for that matter, at a U2 concert.
Last night was a rare night for me: I remembered how much I love to sing. For all of the singing that I do, I often forget that I love it. But sometimes – sometimes – I remember, and I feel the power and freedom, the infinity of music. I love to sing. I really do.
And as I recently read, everyone simply must do what they love.