Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life."
- Berthold Auerbach
I’d just been reading an account of how students study more efficiently when they’re exposed to Mozart and classical music, another account of how grunge rock evoked hostility and greatly reduced mental clarity and motivation in a group of students and yet another about how music actually rewires the brain to create new patterns of activity in different areas - when I came across a post by the writer I call Boots. On her blog she talks about concentrating on her writing and editing, and turning from voice radio to a music station on her radio. She then segues very neatly to a time and a place and a story which will evoke many memories in many of her readers.
While never claiming to be a musician or a music expert I have long used great music as a kind of cosmic baffle around me while I write. Mozart, Brahms, Beethoven, Scarlatti, Bach, Stravinsky, Mahler, Strauss, Rachmaninoff. Classical guitar performed by John Williams and Julian Bream…. No songs, no opera, no human voice as that would draw and distract me into a life other than the invented lives unfolding before me on the page in my notebook or the screen.
I have to come clean here and say I make rather mundane use of these sublime sounds recruiting them as a baffle against the world outside the door, using them as a tranquilliser of the soul. My listening is much less about musical appreciation than about the nurturing of the still small space in the soul freed in these moments from ‘the dust of everyday life’. It is from this still small space that new ideas, metaphors, phrases, paragraphs, monologues and dialogues are likely to emerge.
I speculate that the exquisite metronome, the shapes and the loops at the core of all great music must make my heart beat slowly and regularly, send pulsing blood to my brain to clear it of all the current emotional junk so that new notions, words, and structures become available to my mind, to my pen.
Paradoxically, for me, this flow of the music has to be an involuntary part of the process. Otherwise the still, small space, the pure creative focus is blighted by an intellectual apprehension of the technical brilliance of these musicians so that the story, the poem is lost, not written.
I know that conjuring this still, small space in order to meditate, to write, or to create is no easy thing in the modern world. All creative people have their own tale on how to achieve this state. It could be a long walk on the beach or in wild country. It could be an isolated cottage in the high mountains. It could be the judicious or injudicious use of drugs or alcohol.
But ‘Boots’ and I know that this small space can be generated by the flick of a switch on a music player or a radio. As long as it’s not a song loaded with life-enhancing layers of memory…
As I was thinking about the potency of music I sifted up, and came across a few goodies that you might enjoy,
- You can get some free, intelligence-enhancing Mozart on this site: Free Download Mozart
- Ferdinand, enticed by Ariel’s sweet song onto Prospero’s Island refers to . ‘This music crept by me upon the waters, allaying both their fury, and my passion, with its sweet air. - William Shakespeare The Tempest.
- From the King James Bible : They ministered with music before the tabernacle, the Tent of Meeting, until Solomon built the temple.
- As long as you're in the music, the bad things stay away’ - Jonathan Carroll: The Marriage of Sticks
& The Best:
- "An admirable musician! O, she will sing the savageness out of a bear." - William Shakespeare, Othello