Rev. Richard Atkinson: June 2020
In case you missed it in the January to March Circuit Magazine, here are Richard's thought on one of his great loves — music.
"There is often music playing in the study when I am working. Usually it is just by way of background but I love the moments when the music breaks through and grabs my attention. You need to know that usually my iPod is on shuffle so I have no idea which album is going to come along next. There are some that always grab me, I cannot hear the opening strains of Mozart's bassoon concerto without the hairs of the back of my neck going into overdrive, there are some dramatic or discordant pieces that always invade as do certain voices that stand out from the crowd like Louis Armstrong or Katie Melua. The best times though is when from nowhere a piece of music just grabs and envelops, touches and brings blessing. So today I was sitting at my desk dealing with some Safeguarding matters and into my ear came the strains of piano music composed by Louis Moreau Gottschalk who some regard as the father of syncopation and therefore by default the father of jazz and blues and by connection a vital voice in the origins of modern music. Why it struck today I do not know, at other times it is there in the background but today it took over and for a short while I wallowed in the glorious soundscape being delivered. Music, and especially of an instrumental kind, has a real ability to touch, to move. In a lot of songs we respond to the words (and rightly so) but when there is no voice or the singer is warbling in a language we do not know it strikes me that he actual music can speak volumes.
Music is a gift of God. I could wax lyrical on the history of sound and the suggestion that humanity might have sung before we spoke or consider the question of how musical our brains are; the oldest, in evolutionary terms, part of our brains is vital to music appreciation but instead just want to encourage us all to listen. To let music speak its own distinct language so that the vocabulary of sound might resonate with us. Why is it that a piece of music can cause us to shed tears or express an affinity with our sadness or propel us into higher levels of joy even though this may have been far from the composer's intention? How can music speak? Are we guilty of being so obsessed with words that we risk alienating ourselves from the healing qualities of the soundscape that composers of every genre offer? Don't get me wrong I am not anti-words, they have an important function. The hymns and songs we use have a crucial role in the collective worship of the church and for many are a vital tool in our developing spirituality. You only need to listen to Paul speaking to the Ephesians and the Colossians encouraging them to make music in their hearts by singing hymns, psalms and spiritual songs to know that words have a real significance and should not be ignored or under estimated. I could suggest so many pieces where reading the words could aid us to reflect on the mystery of faith but........ There is beauty without language. Felix Mendelssohn wrote a number of, so-called, songs without words where he tried to convey meaning without a syllable. So I want to ask the question whether should we be encouraging ourselves to listen and see how music can inform our spiritual journey? Finding time to listen purposefully may have real importance if we can educate ourselves so to do."
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