CURIOUSLY ENOUGH, IT WAS THE DEATH of Maria von Trapp, at the age of 99 recently that set me thinking for several hours about music and the role it plays in our lives every day. The Sound of Music, a Broadway musical first, was made into a full length feature film in 1965 and was based, amongst other things, on Maria von Trapp’s life. It is still an evergreen film and its songs are a perennial favorite of millions the world over. Quite literally, the sound of music is integral to our lives as breathing is !
LIFE IS INCOMPLETE WITHOUT MUSIC and we should be happy that it is so all pervasive. From alarm clocks to ring tones on our cellphones, it impossible to imagine a day without some form of musical intervention. Music invokes nostalgia, it induces euphoria and lifts us out of depression. As Nietzsche said, music has been something for the sake of which it is worthwhile to live on earth.
THE REDEMPTIVE POWER OF MUSIC has been captured beautifully by Oliver Sacks in his extraordinary book Musicophilia – Tales of Music and the Brain* which details several case histories involving persons having ailments such as Alzheimer’s, Tourette’s and William syndromes who respond positively to music. The book is an engaging read and makes one feel thankful that we have music in our midst at all times.
MUSIC UNITES CULTURES TOO. Even in a place like Ramallah, in Israeli occupied Palestine, music concerts are known to have reduced the scale of hostilities somewhat and made the perennially warring factions think about peace, even if for brief intervals. On both sides of the border between India and Pakistan, millions enjoy Hindi film music! Whether it is Rachmaninoff on one end of the spectrum to Mika Singh on the other extreme, we should consider ourselves lucky that we have an extraordinary range of music to choose from in order to enliven our humdrum existence. As Jonah Lehrer wrote in his article The Listener (incidentally based on Oliver Sacks), “music is often the final means of human connection, our closing form of comfort. It is what we have when we have nothing else.”
*I am tempted to also recommend Anthony Storr’s work Music and the Mind but then one enjoys music by actually listening to music ! Reading about music heightens its understanding.