Sunday, October 14, 2012

On Music: The Food of Love

I love good music.  Perhaps more than any other medium, music has the power to edify, uplift, instruct, and transform.  This does not mean that visual arts, literature, theater, dance or other modes of artistic expression are any less valuable.  Hardly so.  But good music may be nearest of all to the essence of that which  infuses life into all creation.  I imagine, for example, that when God created the heavens and the earth, the work was enveloped in music.  When God spoke the words: "Let there be light", celestial notes may have reverberated throughout time, space and eternity.  Some mysterious harmony may have been heard at the creation of man.  Then shortly thereafter, while Adam slept, was there not a crescendo, from a pianissimo removal of a rib to the fortissimo formation of woman, the pinnacle of creation?  

It was not a coincidence that the Lord's commandment to Joseph Smith's wife Emma to "lay aside the things of this world, and seek after the things of a better" was immediately followed by a commandment to "make a selection of sacred hymns". (D&C 25:10-11)  Nor was it negligable that the Lord then declared that "my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads". (D&C 25:12)

Joseph Smith's successor once stated that "There is no music in hell, for all good music belongs to heaven".  If that is the case (and I agree that it is), then perhaps there are also varying degrees of musical glory that pertain to heavenly kingdoms.  The apostle Paul described three kingdoms of glory to the Corinthians, the one differing from the other as the glory of the sun differs from the glory of the moon and from the glory of the stars.  (1 Cor. 15:41)  If there are varying degrees of musical glory that are comparable to the glory of the sun, I would suppose that the highest and most refined of such music is as ineffable as that which Paul evoked earlier in his epistle: "But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him". (1 Cor. 2:9)  What sort of symphony might be in store?

Until we are prepared for such songs (see also Psalms 33:3, 149:1, 144:9, Revelation 14:3, Alma 5:26, and D&C 84:98-102), we can appreciate the music that most closely approximates it, whether sacred or secular.  If mortal ears are not yet opened to the music of the sun, the moon, or the stars, there are at least terrestrial tones to relish, not the least of which could include the kind of music in our homes that is enjoined in the introduction to the LDS Hymnbook:

"Music has boundless powers for moving families toward greater spirituality and devotion to the gospel.  Latter-day Saints should fill their homes with the sound of worthy music.  Ours is a hymnbook for the home as well as for the meetinghouse.  We hope the hymnbook will take a prominent place among the scriptures and other religious books in our homes.  The hymns can bring families a spirit of beauty and peace and can inspire love and unity among family members... Hymns can lift our spirits, give us courage, and move us to righteous action.  They can fill our souls with heavenly thoughts and bring us a spirit of peace..."  

Contemplate, for instance, the transcendent message of of the hymn If You Could Hie to Kolob, or the  majesty of How Great Thou Art, or the power of Praise to the Man.  If you feel lost, like you are wandering in search of God, you might consider the invitation in Brightly Beams our Father's Mercy.  In need of peace, healing, comfort or reassurance?  I recommend Be Still My Soul or I Love the Lord.  If a feeling of rejoicing is in your heart that moves you to praise God, there are words and music that may come close to expressing that feeling in the hymn High on a Mountain Top.

Near the mountain tops of music are also heard the myriad melodies of the great composers, such as Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Handel, and Vivaldi.  It would be impossible to enumerate all of the varieties of virtuous music, but such a list would be incomplete without mentioning at least a few others, such as Debussy, Tchaikovsky,  Chopin, Brahms, Rachmaninov, Dvorak, Puccini, Bizet, Schubert, Schuman, Monteverdi, Frescobaldi, Corelli, Purcell, Scarlatti, Telemann (one of my favorites), Rameau, Pergolesi, Palestrina, Gluck, Paganini, Rossini, Mendelssohn, Weber, Donizetti, Berlioz, Strauss, Liszt, Offenbach, Grieg, Mahler, Ravel, Britten and Stravinsky.  Then add to that Gershwin, Bernstein, Rogers and Hammerstein and Gilbert and Sullivan.

Finally, entering further into the secular realm and the areas of personal taste, I would include musicians such as Buddy Holly, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Cat Stevens, Dire Straits and the great Jazz artists such as Ray Charles.  I could not forget Neil Young, The Police, Sade or U2, let alone Michael Jackson (have you ever heard this one?).

I have a particular affinity for the classical guitar, especially the virtuosity of one of its greatest masters, Andres Segovia. Amazing!  Of course I am leaving out the throngs of musicians from Asia, the Middle East, Africa and other areas of the world, as well as musicians from other time periods.  There are certainly modern musicians and masterpieces yet to be discovered.  There are simply too many to count.

Therefore, as the Bard has written, "If music be the food of love, play on". (Shakespeare, Twelfth Night)