This blog has been brewing for quite awhile. I can remember almost exactly when the seed was planted. It was the fall of 2011 and I was touring with a lovely female guitarist in the Southwest. We were talking about the rise of evangelical Christianity and it’s impact on our society, politics, and governance. And then both of us admitted that as we had drifted away from organized religion that music had become our religion.
Religion is a cultural system of behaviors and practices, world views, sacred texts, holy places, ethics, and societal organization that relate humanity to what an anthropologist has called “an order of existence”. Religion is about teaching us our place in the world, a ‘code’ by which we can assess our behavior and personal growth. It is something that holds us to a higher standard, and something that involves the embracing of a higher power. Music, and my pursuits in music as a performer, composer, and educator has provided me all those same elements.
There has always been a spiritual connection for me with music. When I’m listening to something that moves me I am filled with emotion, ideas, inspiration, motivation, and joy. Even if the music itself is sad. When I grieve, or cry, or mourn the release of that pain is instantly replaced with joy and gratitude. The world is a bit brighter. For me, listening to music is prayer and meditation, and a celebration of the human spirit.
Composing for me has the same affect as listening. It involves a deep connection to something bigger than myself. At my best, my compositions never feel written or pieced together. Quite often they come whole; I call this dipping into the divine. The music was there, always had been, I was just the first to hear it.
In the pursuit of being a touring artist music has asked much personal sacrifice. It has challenged me physically, emotionally, and spiritually. What person of God hasn’t had a crisis of faith. As a person of Music, I know I have had repeated crises of faith.
The discipline of religion is no different than the discipline of music. It involves constant self-inventory. It takes practice. It takes study. It demands personal sacrifice. And it requires faith and belief in something bigger than one’s self.
And to become a better performer I realized I had to become a better person. Music asked, no, demanded that of me. I realized that performing; the type of musical performance I wanted to provide was an act of service. It had nothing to do with me. There’s no i in performance, or band, or ensemble. Through music I learned that love is a verb. That’s powerful shit.
And through musical performance I learned about building and nurturing a community. What it means to be community, and how to help each other out. And just how powerful the shared live musical experience truly is. It can alter someone’s life every bit as much as a powerful sermon. And it can save lives too; as well as make someone’s passing from this life easier. Just as religion does.
I’m not suggesting music should be your religion, or that it’s in any way better than any Eastern or Western religion. We all need to find a code to live by, to challenge ourselves so that we grow, and a place to build community with like-minded folks. A place to prosper and grow as we each find our own way from the cradle to the grave.
Music has been mine.
Peace and joy to you and yours,