Music people are addicts of the worst sort. They hear their drug everywhere and it annoys everyone around them ceaselessly. These are the people who can’t be left alone with a piano.
I am a music person. A singer, to be exact. I’ve been singing since before I could speak. And yet, I didn’t realize I was a music person until just a few years ago. I did one of those tests, you know? The one where you find out whether you are a better visual, audio or kinesthetic learner. Except this was based on Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences, and so there are 5 other ones too: Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, Logical/Mathematical, Natural, Spatial and Musical.
So the idea was to take the little quiz and find out which one you were. But, beforehand, you were to guess at which one you were most adept at. I figured, I’ve done this type of test a billion times before and it’s obvious I’m going to be a visual and linguistic learner. Wrong! Musical.
Fancy that! Of course, I had never really thought about it before, but it made sense. My family is built on music. My parents are both musicians and it has been the one constant of my early life. Music was always the thing that we all had in common. It has brought us together and made us a family, even when times were tough.
Because of this, I have a deep reverence for music. All true music people do. I’m just not sure that my choir director is one of them. He stands before us, an hour before our performance. He says, “We won’t be running this whole song. We’re going to start it, then stop, then skip, then start somewhere else.”
That should be about as likely as a crack head saying, “No. I think I should just have one rock today. I don’t want to push it.”
Or me saying, “I’ll just pop into the Goodwill for a few minutes and see what they’ve got.”
It should be just a gross overstatement of self control. And yet, he follows through. Stopping the music just when it gets good. I’m not sure I trust a director who can start and stop music at will.
I know his job is to refine pieces so that the music can be perfected for performance. Still. I can’t fathom a director who isn’t addicted to the rush and flow of creating music. Therein lies a power that is universal; bigger than life and death and breath. To be able to stop and start it at will it is a gift, but also a damnation of sorts. Who am I to halt the voice of God as it sings through hundred souls? Who is he?
This is why I am not the director, I guess. I feel too small standing beside the music. I would rather mold and shape it, not stop it completely.
As a part of the choir, I don’t have to worry about all that responsibility. I still feel the huge awesomeness without the fear of letting down The Big Guy. For that, I am grateful.
There are probably thousands, millions who never get to really understand what it is like to be inside music when it is truly being made. There is a connection that not everyone who is in a basic high school choir gets to feel. It has to do with listening, feeling for the inspiration and revelation that is always present in the music. That revelation is hidden in chords, just beyond the small black dots and lines on the page. And yet, like my 5-year-old girl, amateurs try to read what is written without an understanding of a higher power and greater design. And so some people leave their high school choir (or orchestra, or band) never knowing what they didn’t hear.
But, there are some who are able to hear, to recognize the voice of God speaking his words though other mouths and tones. I believe it is a talent that is given, but also one that can be learned. Either way, it is one of the doors into the heart of God himself.
In college, I went for a walk one night. I had just finished my dinner at the cafeteria and was heading back to my dorm when I heard the sweet, lonely notes of a pianist. I crept in quietly, not knowing what he’d say even if he did acknowledge me. He was a tall black man with a clean face and lowered eyes. He touched the keys reverently, saying his prayers out loud for me to hear. Not with his lips, but with his soul, his creation and his talent.
In such a moment, do we understand that we are speaking with God in his own language, on his own terms? Do we recognize that we are in his house, sitting on his couch and commiserating, friend to friend?
This pianist may not have been aware of the deep, reverent words that he spoke, but my heart testified of their grace and glory. To be in that room, to hear that intimate moment between a loving father and son, was a blessing of invaluable import. I sat, soaking in the melody and meaning, my soul testifying that every note was true.
When he finished, he did not look at me, nor I him. There was no need. We had worshipped together. Some things are too sacred to ever speak out loud.
And now, I sing in this choir. It is good. The people in the choir and orchestra are talented, but it’s not perfect. There are times, although far too rarely, that I hear God speak my name in the music. The moments are rare, but precious. I cling to them, hopping from moment to moment like stones over a river. The moments are the stepping stones that keep me from drowning in the loneliness that comes from being so far from my true home.
Music reminds me of who I am and where I belong. Some day, I will return to my father’s house and he will ask me if I learned anything of worth. I will tell him, “I learned how to hear your voice, and I learned how to speak back.”
And then, I will sing.