A few days ago, I attended a fund raising concert held by a choir that one of my best friends is part of. I honestly did not want to go at first. It was on a Sunday night and I wanted to get to sleep early to “prepare” for another week of work ahead. But my friend sent me a message confirming my attendance, and I realized I had never watched her in the numerous concerts her choir has had since she joined.
The concert was a fundraiser was for an alumnus of the choir whose first-born son was beset by a rare illness that needed very expensive treatment.
That night, as I sat alone in the theater (none of my family members wanted to come), I found myself feeling excited, mainly because I was looking forward to seeing my friend on stage. She was doing something she loved to do, after all. And I was (am) very proud of her for that.
They sang most of the songs a capella. As I sat listening and taking photos, in awe of the talent all of them had (especially my friend), I realized two things. First was that I was actually paying attention to the lyrics of the songs they were singing. Second, that despite having heard some of these songs numerous times, I only understood the full lyrics to some of these songs that night.
It helped a lot that I had read Josef Pieper’s “Thoughts about Music” that afternoon. In it he poses the question, “what do we perceive when we listen to music?” He answers that music is an expression of man’s inner dynamic. I understood that Pieper in this piece is only talking of the actual music, melody, without any lyrics. But instead of “wordless expression,” I’d like to believe that music or songs- with lyrics, if you may – is precisely man’s expression of himself. It is an expression of his dynamic self that falls in love, feels pain, experiences joy, etc.
Pieper also says “music is never impersonal.” And he wasn’t only referring to those who make and perform music. At that concert, I realized that I didn’t actually know half the lyrics of the songs I currently listen to. I say I like the music because of the beat, or perhaps because I have a crush on the singer. Sometimes when I actually listen to the lyrics, I find them very repulsive, and some don’t even make sense. The sad part is that we allow ourselves to continue listening to such words.
“Good music” doesn’t always have to refer to classical music. Like all art, music shouldn’t be accessible to only a few. Yes, it is precisely the expression of human dynamism, of human nature. And if human nature tends towards the good, then this expression must show that. Indeed, much formation may be needed to make up for man’s imperfections and tendency towards the perversion of good things, but it is not an impossible feat.
For starters, we need to listen, and to listen carefully.
By: Ms. Zarina San Jose, a WYA intern from the Philippines