A few days ago, Pastor Freed wrote this in his blog, Jack’s Winning Words – “After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.” (Aldous Huxley) I know the thought that Huxley is expressing, but the passing thought that comes to my mind is how Charlie Chaplin was able to use music in his silent movies…a talent for putting silence and music together.
The use of music to set a mood or pace in a movie is still used today. We seldom notice it because we have grown to expect it, rather than silence. In fact, total silence can be disturbing, just as total darkness is frightening and disturbing. We are used to being immersed in sounds. Many people have music constantly playing around them, either for real or imagined. I have little songs playing out in my head as I walk my dog. The imagined music fills a void in the mind and keeps it amused and active.
I will admit to not being a music person, someone who has to have songs playing around them in the background as they drive or just sit there. I went through a phase in life where music was more important to me and I have an extensive collection of music in various, now-outdated recording formats, most of which is now to old to even make it onto the Classic Rock stations.
Now instead of donning ear pods to listen, I can just turn my mind loose on the music that is stored there. Often the little songs that we use for our gospel acclimation in our church service will pop to mind. They are catchy little tunes and easy to repeat over and over in one’s mind.
While we listen to the words (if there are words) in the songs that we hear (real or imagined), I suspect that it is really the melody that catches the attention of the mind. Music and math are inextricably linked in the mind. Our brains are wired for the mathematical order that the melody in music brings with it. Whether aware of it or not, the melody writers are creating mathematical sequences of notes or melodies that appeal to our brains. Great classical music of operas and symphonies are mathematical tours-de-force. The Norwegian composer Marcus Paus has argued: “Melody is to music what a scent is to the senses: it jogs our memory. It gives face to form, and identity and character to the process and proceedings.”
There has also been a small, but dedicated, movement for some time focused upon non-melodic music, which is now called experimental music. It is hard to imagine music from that genre getting stuck in the mind and playing away in the background as I walk the dog.
Perhaps what Huxley was trying to say is that music brings with it an orderliness which helps the mind express the inexpressible. Music can certainly calm the mind by drowning out the noise of the world and bringing order out of chaos. One can go from neurons randomly firing off in all directions, within the confused or frightened mind, to the order and smoothness found in a good melody by just conjuring up a good tune. Try thinking of your favorite song the next time that you are anxious or confused about life. Let the melody play out in your mind and seek comfort in orderliness of it.
What music is playing in your mind?