What is the Spiritual Significance of Music?

What is the Spiritual Significance of Music?

February 23, 2016 – By Leo Perez.

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Spirituality is a very complicated word to define. Maybe it’s an impossible task given how abstract its meaning is, and how it is something that is experienced differently from person to person. Notwithstanding, spirituality evokes the most defining face of humanity: Self Awareness.

Science, religion and of course, the arts (including music), are all expressions of our collective quest of finding more about ourselves. This all happens, of course, as a direct result of us become self-aware in the universe.

Whatever the reasons we -the human species- have for creating art, music and even practicing science, there is simply no helping it, it’s ingrained into our programming to know, create and believe. We have been doing it for thousands of years in the shape of myths, legends, and all forms of abstract creation and thought. It is all encoded in our beings. Again, there’s no way to stop this, and consequences are always dire when societies try to stop this natural trait of our species.

I love music, listening to it, analyzing it, breaking it down, and of course, creating it. It is no coincidence that we often hear how composers ‘cannot’ stop making music. We humans must wonder what’s out there, and why we exist. And it is music precisely what is part of that “encoding” that characterizes our never-ending quest for finding the ultimate answer of the Universe: sometimes we want clear and concrete answers, and sometimes we just want to experience what our nature is. It is this second experience of ‘wanting to know what our nature is’ that brings us a glimpse of what the spirituality significance of music is: the unavoidable searching and exploration of our consciousness and reality. So music is a search? Sure it is. I often get the question as to how I come up with ideas for my compositions. Me, being a catholic-raised turned agnostic, have to say that there is no easy answer to that. However, in trying to answer it, there is a strong relevance to our original question: “What do you believe is the spiritual significance of music?” When I write music, or come up with ideas, there is nothing special happening, other than me letting the already-existing infinite combination of notes and pitches flow through my fingers. I don’t feel any “creative process” per se; only a natural and ever-existing information (spirit?) that materializes through my chords, arrangements and melodies.

It all sounds pretty esoteric doesn’t it? In all honesty, it really couldn’t be simpler and ordinary. I don’t feel any “divine genius” flowing through my brain, or any kind of elevating creative meditation. It’s just like eating, or walking. It’s a natural process that is certainly bigger than me, just like our human instincts are. Is always there, and I simply tap into it when music is written. In other words, we could say music is nothing else than the product of our exploration of the universe through sounds and structure. Just like a scientist observes with a telescope or microscope to explore nature, we, musicians, just happen to use pitches, tempo and sounds instead. We both come up with answers/products, some are explanations (from science) others are sensations, metaphors, and presences (from art or music). This happens regardless of religion or faith. You can call it ‘God’ or simply a feeling, emotion or simply a concept (I tend to prefer the latter). The bottom line is that it does bring a feeling of being part ‘of something larger than ourselves’. That’s the key of the the spiritual significance of music, just the same way it’s the key to a recovering alcoholic feeling part and surrendering to something bigger than him/herself.

As simple as this may be, I believe this is precisely what the spiritual significance of music is. When composers write, and when listeners experience music, we are all listening to a portion of our souls, as most belief systems understand it: something bigger than us that define us in the universe (just what music is). Music then, is one part of us that connects us with the Universe and shows us its multiple faces. I am not sure how far music will let us understand our Universe (maybe it does help a great deal), but at the very least is an experience of connectivity and something bigger than us in the broadest sense of the word. Chances are you find this healing, pleasant, exciting, useful or at least interesting. And if that isn’t a spiritual experience, then I really don’t know what else it could be. What do you think? Please comment at the bottom of this page.

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2 thoughts on “What is the Spiritual Significance of Music?”

  1. Your post is very good: a beautiful definition of the role of music in our lives. You have a wonderful all-inclusive holistic conception of life. It is a pity that you spoil this inclusiveness by excluding Catholicism, which goes back to the ancient world. It has such a long history. A history of our beliefs about our existence. I feel it is a pity that you don’t build your insights on top of the catholic view rather than ignore it.
    I find that so many commentators today, run anywhere but to Christianity to support their modern insights. As you must know, it is usually to the east. It is, as if, the familiar is always incorrect.
    Thank you, Brendan Hennigan

  2. I think you made a good point there. I didn’t mean to ignore it, at least not consciously. For me, Christianism is very familiar, is what I know, therefore, it tends to feel mundane, and I, being full at-fault, ignored it like we often do with that which is around us daily. Thank you again for pointing that.

    Yes, Christianity has played a central role in the history of the topic behind this discussion, and I think the sacred works of Bach and others speak volumes about it.

    I will keep it in mind for the next time I delve on this fantastic subject, which is painfully unexplored in the mainstream outside the obscure halls of academia.



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