Music, poetry, art. I can't imagine life without regular exposure to these life-giving rays of sunlight, sure sources of Vitamin D for the soul. I love books but refuse to have my study walls lined with bookcases. There must be space for pictures, visual nourishment. There must be time for at least one poem, one chunk of something that comes as a gift to the mind and a word to the heart. And there must be music, sounds that compose us even as they have been composed and played by others.
I've tried to think of the piece of music or song I've listened to most and am surprised at how hard it is to answer that self imposed question. At different times in my life I've listened to some songs or pieces of music repeatedly, then they have fallen off my top 20 for a while, maybe for good. There are songs that are now part of who I am because I've played them off and on for decades. There are songs and musical compositions I've only discovered relatively recently and wondered how I never came across them before, and thanked God that they found me.
I've a lot of friends who are more knowledgeable about music than I, and whose tastes are very different, who play music as well as listen to it, and from them I've received an informal if patchy and often unintended education. To take only classical music, Brahms' Violin Concerto, Gabriel's Oboe, Spem in Alium, Bernstein's Chichester Psalms (Psalm 23, and 2 Adonai ro i), are musical gifts others urged on me. Listening to them has become as easy as a conversation with someone who knows me deeply, but stops short of stripping away the mystery of the self I am. Hearing the recurrent newness in the familiar, listening to music that has taken root in us restores and renews our 'muchness'; as the Mad Hatter said to Alice,“You used to be much more..."muchier." You've lost your muchness.” Music therapy is when those few pieces of music that know us better than we know them, do their restoration work on our 'muchness'.
Gabriel's Oboe is a masterpiece of sound that heals, restores, lifts up. In the context of the film, The Mission, it carries a powerful critique of the savagery of civilisation as Christianization. It is this gentle music, played on an early baroque instrument in the South American jungle, that first arouses the curiosity and ultimately the conversion of the native people. The film exposes with unsparing criticism of power-seeking religion the consequences of such surrender and vulnerability. This solo piece expresses the contradiction between the spiritual devotion of those remarkable priests to God and to the community of native peoples, and the ugly violence of real-politik, empire and greed of Church and State. This is music at its most poignant, potent with possibility, vulnerable in its beauty, therapy for cynicism.