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The Nature of Music

So much in the world can be explained and yet not fully understood. The different functions of the human body, the processes that make life possible, the path of monarch butterflies. Music is no different. We understand so much and yet, so little. Every now and then, we find ourselves facing the sublime... and it makes us speechless.

There are only a handful of things in the world that gift us a clear awareness of the sublime—nature, the arts, music. This is why I became a musician. It is one of the few things in the world that can impart in the human heart a sense of awe and wonder, of the mystery of life and love. It is one of the few things in the world that can elevate our souls and give us a chance to hope and dream. There are many fascinating aspects surrounding the mystery of music, but one of the things that frequently blows my mind is the ability of a fixed medium to capture the emotion of a recorded performance. The sound captured is imprinted with emotion, somehow. Isn't it astounding that an emotion can cut through sound waves that are reproduced by a machine and move someone to tears? Words cannot contain the meaning that we perceive when we encounter the sublime. This is what keeps touching my heart and moving me to write music. One of my favorite authors talks about the sublime in this way:

“The sublime is that which we see and are unable to convey. …

It is that which our words, our forms, our categories can never reach. This is why the sense of the sublime must be regarded as the root of man’s creative activities in art, thought, and noble living. Just as no flora has ever fully displayed the hidden vitality of the earth, so has no work of art, no system of philosophy, no theory of science, ever brought to expression the depth of meaning, the sublimity of reality in the sight of which the souls of saints, artists, and philosophers live.” Heschel

To paraphrase Heschel, the sublime is nothing short than an act of God himself—and there’s no other place I’d rather be.


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