“Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy. Music is the electrical soil in which the spirit lives, thinks and invents.”
~ Ludwig van Beethoven
Like most people who grew up listening to classical music, I think I’ll be an addict for the rest of my life. I can’t quite tell you what it does to me, but I think I can recognize the heart’s noblest and deepest longings in this complicated yet beautiful union of notes and rhythm; a perfect combination of cliffs and parachutes.
But what I love the most about my affair with the classical is not just the bittersweet nostalgia of my first romance with music, or the bridge of sound it magically builds between the current “me” and my inner six-year old.
It’s about being touched, entered and changed—through music—by the thoughts and feelings of these remarkable people who’ve mastered the highest art of all. Their music is a tunnel and when I enter it, I fell like I can shake hands with them right in the darkest middle.
Long before you and I were even imagined by the universe, Plato taught music in his Academy as a prerequisite to all other subjects, since he believed that,
“Musical training is a more potent instrument than any other, because rhythm and harmony enter into the inward places of the soul, on which they mightily fasten, imparting grace.”
But the greatest thing about classical music—like any other high form of art—isn’t just what it does to one or the immortal message it delivers. It goes beyond mere inspiration.
It’s the empowering element: it trains its players, it shapes their fingers and minds. It is superior education delivered to the unreasonable; a subtle school of life for the unteachable; a perfect gym for your creative muscles.
Just add passion plus as many hours of enjoyable sweat you can manage and you’re all set. (By sweat I mean, of course, handmade genius—the only kind of genius I understand).
But first, let’s get inspired.
“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” ~ Plato
“Music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life.” ~ Beethoven
“Go on; don’t only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets. Art deserves that, for it and knowledge can raise men to the Divine.” ~ Beethoven
“I will take fate by the throat; it will never bend me completely to its will.” ~ Beethoven
This is the other half of the Moonlight Sonata, I see it as the Behind-the-Scenes part, the real life that starts after the credits roll.
“If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.” ~ Albert Einstein
“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
I have a special love for the Trout Quintet, ever since I was stuck with one Schubert tape for two weeks during a trip, nearly two decades ago. I had no other choice but to fall in love with it (after memorizing the tune).
But I’ve never seen it played so gracefully before. I’m moved by how the musicians are paying attention to each other’s slightest variation. This is the real essence of team work. You’ve got to be a sensitive person to play chamber music.
But enough about genius and more about you.
Genius is all right as far as genius goes. Beyond all inspiration, though, even if genius is not the point, I think everyone currently living on this planet who can have access to a musical instrument should learn to play one, however clumsy, old, set in your ways or tired you might be.
(You can get a used guitar for as cheap as $100.)
However lame, ridiculous or terrible-sounding, we should all take a shot at developing our musical ear. If you can’t take lessons with a real, flesh and blood teacher, you have hundreds of online tutorials at just one click.
It’s really not about talent or about how well you can play—unless you’re planning to become a professional musician. It’s about going on a dinner-date with your higher, musical, sensitive self to a timeless restaurant filled with the most remarkable high, musical-sensitive-selves in history and enjoying a nutritious meal.
It’s never too late to reshape the mind, train the fingers and reconnect with your creative source. This applies to any other art or craft. Don’t delay the conversation of a lifetime.
In a parallel universe, I can see my future, hypothetical children making faces when I take them to their first violin / piano / guitar / drums / you-name-it music lessons. And 15 years after that, whether they turn into musicians or scientists or cooks or (god forbid) writers, I can see them thanking me for watering this seed.
And 70 years from now—if I don’t get hit by a truck or struck by unexpected lightening—I can see myself falling asleep with a wrinkled Mona Lisa smile to Bach’s cello suites and not regretting a single note of my unrehearsed, wabi sabi sort of life ’cause…who knows? Maybe death is just time travel.
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