SACRED MUSIC

SACRED MUSIC
                  Watch a small child at play, sometime. He or she will be in a private world, making up a tune for his or her own entertainment. There is something to know from this, because I know that the child has not been exposed to as much culture as I have.  Yet instinctively he or she knows that it is okay to create music. You don’t need a degree. Scientists tell us that the human brain is hard-wired for music. We probably had music before we had speech. Don’t forget what Nietzsche told us: “If there were no music, all life would be a mistake.” And he’s right. Music is, in the best possible sense, part of our human nature.
                  We recently attended the Christmas concert at the cathedral at Catholic University. In the vaulted stone hall, we listened to a full chorus, a full symphony – and that bombastic, intimidating, magnificent pipe organ – deliver to us a range of Christmas music, the beauty of which is beyond my ability to decribe. It haunted, it pacified, it inspired.
                  The next morning, Saturday, we were camped out along Fairfax Avenue in old town Alexandria, to watch the Scottish Walk parade. I don’t usually enjoy parades, but this yearly event is special. There among the kilts and border terriers were the pipes. Like my father, Gerri and I both love bagpipes. When the parade finished in the town square, we were treated by a massed concert of over 50 bagpipers. Under such circumstances, “Bonnie Scotland” and “Amazing Grace” can always reduce me to tears.
                  The Sunday night following, we were at a concert at Georgetown University of Falla’s “El Amor Brujo”, done as a ballet with symphony orchestra. The ballet was good, the music wonderful, but the featured flamenco singer, Esperanza Fernandez, was amazing. It’s hard to resist the raw power of the gypsy phrasing she projected, and even in her age she could still do some dance moves. Again: tears.
                  It’s what I’m trying to tell you here. From jazz and blues to Hazel Dickens, from Beethoven to Ellington, Chuck Berry to Fado, or Ladysmith Black Mombassa to Leo Kottke, Music has always infused my emotional life top depths I cannot articulate. “Nessum Dorma” and the opening prayer, sung, to the 1812 overature always bring tears. I can’t help it. When I see some young swain on the doorstep of his girlfriend’s house, serenading with a guitar and a folk tune, whatever else I know, I know this: that all music is sacred.