Imagine that it’s a weekday afternoon. I didn’t sleep well the night before and awoke so tired that I skipped my Morning Practice. Instead, I wrote a curmudgeonly post about some commercial that annoyed me the night before. Then I spent two hours trying to find an error in a MATLAB program that seemed to be working the last time I looked at it. Frustrated, I decide to pick up lunch and , as I sometimes do when I’m frustrated, I get a burger and fries from Burger King instead of a salad. Now, I’m staring at the Canada geese in the lake, not only frustrated, but feeling fat and undisciplined. My brain and pen still won’t reconnect as I try in vain to restart my Morning Pages at one in the afternoon. Prayer feels rote and there are only two chances I’ll be able to meditiate, slimski and noneski … and slimski‘s skipped town. Still, there’s hope of salvaging the day if only I can rise above my mood and put on some music. Music Therapy.
The best thing about Music Therapy is that it is for the most part passive. I don’t have to do anything more than put on some music then sit back and listen. Maybe it’s Paradise by the Rippingtons or Templemeads by Acoustic Alchemy. Rise by Herb Albert is a sure blues-chaser. The music itself doesn’t have to be upbeat, though. The Ahn Trio’s Dies Irie or Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata will do. Music does more than lift my mood, though … it raises my spirit. As I said in a post titled Soul Music that I wrote way back in 2009, I never feel more aware of my soul than when I’m engaged in listening to certain music. For me, certain means beautifully rendered and probably instrumental, so I can’t be distracted by the words. The exception is choral music.
Choral music seems to have particular power to tap into my spirit. I suppose that could be a connection established in a Catholic childhood, listening to ecclesiastical music during mass. However, most of the choirs I’ve heard during services … in both my Catholic and Semi-Jew periods … were well-meaning but dreadful. I don’t ever remember being spiritually inspired. I once got to attend a rehearsal of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in Salt Lake. The awe I felt was certainly more due to the grandeur of the performance than any religious connection. At any rate, if I want to emphasize the spiritual aspects of Music Therapy, I may put on the Sanctus from Beethoven’s Mass in C Minor or Vivaldi’s Gloria in excelsis Deo in D Major. When I have time to listen to it all the way through, my favorite is Mozart’s Requiem. For emergencies requiring a quick fix, I listen to the Agnus Dei, set to Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings. I have no idea where this stands in the pantheon of choral music (I’m sure my singing friend singlescell will tell me :)) but it moves me deeply.
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