A young British mum, Cristina (living in France currently), that I write with in Writing in Community wrote an unbelievable post recently on the Awe through Music. So, I asked her permission to do a blog post with some of the content she initially wrote that would resonate with many people. She gratefully gave me a hearty "YES!"
Can you think about that one moment when shivers went up and down your spine with music from an ephemeral church hymn to the baddest, loudest, head-banging rock-n-roll music?
Awe through Music
"Art and music somehow express life patterns." -Susan Langer.
Can you remember the first piece of music you listened to where you were overcome by intense emotion? That was awe.
According to Dr. Dacher Keltner, music is one of the 8 different "wonders" of awe. The others are moral beauty (courage, kindness,…), collective effervescence (walks in groups, singing in a choir, WIC,…), nature, visual art, spirituality, mortality, and epiphanies. "We all have our pathways to awe," he says.
The first CD I received with my Discman was the 1492 film soundtrack. I'd specifically asked for it. Not the typical choice for an 11-year-old girl.
"What on earth's Vangelis? Is it Spanish?" asked my cousin, with a disapproving scrunched nose. "I got Steps too!" I exclaimed, reassuring myself I wasn't a total loser.
By listening to Vangelis, I'd hoped to revisit the same intense emotion I'd felt that previous 5th November, at Bonfire Night. And those feelings can't be explained or understood with words. As an adult and artist, I admire our teacher's creativity in pulling off such a magnificent event. Perhaps it seems bigger than it was, as I was young and impressionable. Though the Boyzone concert the previous year hadn't had the same effect.
And then Cristina adds from the night at the Bonfire:
The bonfire flames, enormous, flickered and danced towards the stars in slow motion. They lit up the atmosphere, and a breeze carried that warmth to my cheeks from quite a distance. And as I squelched closer, that piece of music began: Conquest of Paradise https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WYeDsa4Tw0c. It boomed from speakers the size of cars across the fields, laser beams lighting up the darkest corners of the pitches. The united "hummmms" from that choir echoed into the empty fields and twinkling hills of the countryside around us.
And that was that moment. The one that made me stand still, mesmerized. The one that engraved itself in my memory. This collection of new feelings. A different way to experience music. The immense beauty and power of that moment shook my soul. Other people's creativity coming to life. Like they'd clicked their fingers, and the magic happened. I was part of a captive audience. We all stood around in awe.
After reading her post, I was gobsmacked and remembered a moment comparable to hers when I was about 10 years old. Here is my response to hers:
My experience with music that I'll never forget is when my dad took me to a beat-up, no longer-used cinder running track in the Tremont area of Cleveland, Ohio. I had to work on my starts for the sprints I ran when I was about 9 or 10 years old. One day, we arrived early in the evening and heard music playing on the field. It was marching band music with at least 100 kids spread across the inner hardly-any-grass field.
I donned a pair of too-big and beat-up pair of ugly track spikes, warmed up as needed, and started my work out to the Mamas & the Papas California Dreaming https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-aK6JnyFmk. The band leader must have liked what he heard because the band only played it once.
The second song, The 5th Dimension's, The Age of Aquarius, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kjxSCAalsBE, invigorated me to run those sprints and around that track like nothing before or after that day! I think (if I scrunch my brain to remember) I had a tear fall from my face once I hit the finish line after working out for an hour - the music coursed through my body with each stride around the track in the starting blocks. The evening was just my dad and me and that South High School band circa 1970 or 1971.
I will never forget that day/evening, and I still get chills thinking about it.
MUSIC = life and life's moments.
The Age of Aquarius was THAT moment for me!
What is your THAT music moment?
The photos below are all taken by me: 1) a nod to Crisitna's bonfire, 2) sunrise in Chobe National Park, Botswana (lyric of California Dreaming), 2016, and a nod to my youth track days with the 2018 Indoor USATF Masters Track Meet in Prince George's County, Maryland.