Does anyone out there still listen to John Michael Talbot? I first bought a vinyl album yonks ago called The Quiet, and loved the quiet instrumental music played at contemplative pace, and with some beautiful melodies. Today I've been having a sabbatical couple of hours on a Sunday, listening to Our Blessing Cup: Songs for Liturgical Celebrations. The tracks are mainly Psalms set to music and several of them do what good music should do. But just what is it good music should do?
In deference to the post-modern sensitivities about prescribing criteria for everyone else, here's what good music does for me, whether it should or not!
As sound and stimulus from beyond my own mind, it interrupts my preoccupations, and breaks the self-generated agendas of the habitually active brain. Yes there is music that fulfils the role of background sound, but I mean music that simply insists on a listener. Beethoven's Seventh Symphony, and Brahms' Violin Concerto, and Christian Forshaw's Sanctuary CD do this for me.
Music is a mood changer. Good music coaxes me out of my complacency, persuades me to unclench hands that hold too tightly to my worries, and lifts the heart above the limited horizons that obscure the hopes and possibilities there to be imagined, felt and sought with a trusting heart. Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony, Allegri's Miserere, John Denver's Windsong Album, and Our Blessing Cup with John Michael Talbot have often rescued me.
Good music is like the smile on the face of a friend, something that evokes joy and reminds of life's blessings so often tied to those faces we know, and who recognise us. The face of a friend seen unexpecedly in a crowd, or sought for companionship or support, however familiar, remains a transformative encounter with embodied welcome. Those melodies, lyrics, and songs that have woven themselves into our view of the world, ourselves and the meaning of love, are irreplaceable and without them we would be less than who we are.
This is soul music, those cadences and harmonies that like the Spirit brooding over the chaos of the deeps, speaks a new order and purpose into us, those sounds and tones, notes and chords which re-shape and re-direct our hearts desires and longings. The coincidence of music and our own story creates a unique fusion of memory, emotional capital and new possibility each time we hear again that which has changed us. Mozart's Clarinet Concerto slow movement, Tallis' Spem in Alium, Bernstein's Chichester Psalms (Psalm 2,23), Mary Chapin Carpenter's 'Jubilee', The Seekers version of 'Blowin in the Wind', Simon and Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water, are just a few of those that can re-arrange the furniture of the heart for me.
All of which comes from sitting here listening to a Franciscan monk singing his heart out.
On a lighter note - I had no idea why he was singing 'Forever relaxing'!
He was singing 'Forever will I sing', but ran the words together and I was sure he was singing about heaven as an armchair with a coffee, a freshly baked scone with butter and jam, and a good book....but there you go, instead I have to sing for eternity! Lord help us all :)
The photo is of tonight's sunset from our front window - taken by Aileen on her phone - I was too busy listneing to Father Talbot to notice!.
Forver will I sing = forever relaxing!?