Music is as old as hearing. No visual art or theatrical performance can quite outdo the whimsicality and ineffable power of the trained voice or instrument. Spirituality and transcendence have long been associated with music… and the very word implies it as something that actually stands on the threshold of something supernaturally brilliant.
“Tell me, Muse, of the man of many ways, who was driven far journeys…”
A ‘Muse’ was a beautiful goddess charged with gracing humanity with visions, ideas and skills surrounding the creative arts and manufacturing geniuses since the dawn of civilisation. A Muse would offer these skills as modes of entertainment, but also as tools for the political, religious or existentially driven individual. This was the attitude of the masses. As an ancient people, we were so enthralled by musical talent that we would conclude that only a higher being could have originated it. The existence of a Muse was proposed by the Greeks, the Hebrew phrase Hallelujah is always best exclaimed in song, and in India the very fabric of creation was attributed to one, audible frequency; Om.
In her Ted Talk, Elizabeth Gilbert talks about the origin of the Spanish word ‘ole!’ (bravo). When a creative performance was so beguiling and masterful, the crowd would- ‘put their hands together and they would start to chant, ‘Allah, Allah, Allah. God, God, God.’’ Some say that over the centuries this very exclamation was transmuted into the more familiar ‘ole!’ used in bullfights and other supremely impressive spectacles. The power of music can help people see God, enamour a nation or provoke a riot; as in the unfortunate case of Stravinsky’s scandal during 1913.
“Music is a therapy. It is a communication far more powerful than words, far more immediate, far more efficient.”
Music is so unique and powerful a tool that we can even use it to treat mental illness. And this isn’t a new discovery either. David used his adept skill with the harp to coax King Saul out of his depression and today we use it to as a therapy to alleviate the symptoms of schizophrenia, anxiety, autism and PTSD as well as many more. Sound is so intimately connected with the shape and flow of our neurological map that it should be regarded as a medicine. “Music is a therapy. It is a communication far more powerful than words, far more immediate, far more efficient.” Says one of the most influential violinists of the 20th century; Yehudi Menuhin.
The power of song has also been associated with the supernaturally evil, chaotic or the revolutionary counter-cultural.
‘The Rite of Spring’ was able to dismember the romantic sensibilities of its audience with a sinister and dramatic atmosphere that may have bordered on the feeling of being conjured. Figuratively, and while the audience were under the expectations of a world war, Stravinsky showed them all of the abundance they stood to lose. But he didn’t just show it, he made them feel it. He made them feel what they could lose if they weren’t prepared to make ‘The Sacrifice’.
Conversely, music can mend what is broken with its therapeutic and inspirational side. It is no wonder that we treat it as a gift from heaven, considering the multitude of functions it can perform on the human mind- and what functions the human mind can perform when it is under its spell.
“Man, if you have to ask what jazz is, you’ll never know.”
The ‘Devil’s Trill Sonata’ was a masterpiece centred around the concept of dreams and fantasies, said to have been taught to him by the Devil. He appeared to him and began to teach him the Sonata that would one day place him in the same category as the Muse-driven geniuses of the past.
Rock and Roll, likewise was considered to be similarly removed from the status quo, taking pride in harsher, more serious and anti-establishment themes and narratives. It harnesses the role that Stravinsky took upon himself to disturb, enrage, petrify or invigorate with the more negative/outraged passions. The era of Rock and Roll was (and sometimes still is) considered to be an invention of the Devil rather than a Muse- such was the level of controversy it was able to invoke. The role of Rock and Roll is to take a ‘hands on approach’ with emotion at its most raw and at its most antagonistic.
Jazz seconds the non-traditionalist approach to music, creating an improvised form of communication between different races in slave environments. It was redemptive of a hard time in history for many minorities in New Orleans and is often ascribed as a mystically undefinable genre of music. Louis Armstrong summed up the nature of Jazz this way, “Man, if you have to ask what jazz is, you’ll never know.” If Rock and Roll is the musical embodiment of rebellion then Jazz is the musical embodiment of the intuitive and is often as unplanned in its live executions as its birth.
Psychologists who work alongside artists are said to even be able to make claims about the intimate nature of the Musician from their songs and musical instruments alone, though these are largely new and speculative approaches in science. The likelihood is though, that if we create something that is designed to impact other people in a certain way, it is very likely that our chosen genres say a great deal about who we are and what we want. If this is so, then it is no wonder that people both religious and secular have used music in their meditations for centuries.
It is such an immediate way of harnessing the subconscious and making it conscious. Such a tool is rare without the use of chemicals and drugs, and its pervasiveness throughout human history shows that its invention is nothing short of some kind of miracle or primordial device
‘Wine, Women and Song’
To conclude this post, a piece of music is more than something that keeps you occupied, and although a song or soundtrack may use words- they are by no means bound by them. Rather, they give them new meaning in the way the words are sung; the way they sound.
Because it is such a sought after medium, empowering the practitioner with a wide range of functions, we will never reach a state of not wanting more musicians to take up the call. When the subject of music cannot create a real change, it will still very likely be able to represent one in its song. What it cannot create in reality by way of inspiration it will be able to at least tease us with. A torment people regularly pay time and money to hear.
Music is Thought and Feeling that envelopes words rather than the other way around. It can be primordial and exquisite or nurturing and baptismal. The human mind, though capable of using symbols and analogies is still a primarily sensually motivated being. We react to loud noise faster than a merely painted stop sign. We attribute charisma to voice rather than to page and we equate the most exquisite things in life as ‘music to one’s ears’.
It is even allowed into the hedonist’s version of the Epicurean trinity; wine, women and Song.
 https://www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_success_failure_and_the_drive_to_keep_creating accessed on 27/03/2017
 http://www.instrumentsofhealing.org/music-heals-the-soul.html accessed on 27/03/2017