If a song has a beat that I can move to, I can listen to it over and over again. I am a true music lover, for I like all kinds of music. As a little girl, I only heard R&B songs on black radio stations. I heard gospel music at church, and still today, as much as look forward to the preaching, it is the choir singing that sets my spirit soaring. A hundred-voice choir in perfect harmony singing of the greatness of God and of Jesus Christ just cannot be beat!
I learned to love other music, across time. My mother loved country music, and she played her music loud, particularly the songs of Waylon Jennings. I was embarrassed when the neighbors complained about the cacophony of Mama’s music, but I must confess that I liked country music for the same reason she did: I understood the lyrics! Country lyrics were about real life, such as growing up poor or men cheating on their wives, stuff I saw every day and knew something about.
But, it is classical music which tends to soothe the sometimes savage beasts of anxiety and depression that invade my peace. It wasn’t until I was in college that I came to understand the power of classical music to move us and bring our souls pure joy.
In a history class, we were required to attend a cultural event and write an essay on it. The only time I had available, as I was still working full-time, was on Saturday evenings. So, I chose to go to hear the Atlanta Symphony. I felt somewhat out of place, for I was the only black person I saw in the audience that night, and there was one black man in the orchestra playing the trumpet.
Then, the conductor came on stage, and the people applauded. I had no clue what he had done to deserve such respect, but I clapped along with them. Then he left the stage, and a few minutes later he returned, and the audience clapped again. I thought, “Boy, they really like this guy!”
Finally, a young lady comes out with her violin and sits in the empty chair in the front of the orchestra, and they clapped for her when the conductor waved at her. Again, I clapped, not knowing what was happening. I finally understood the pageantry of classical music, and I came to love the rituals associated with this music.
Then the music started, and I was transported to another world. The harmony of all of those different instruments playing together touched my soul, and I was hooked. I bought season tickets to the Symphony, with a special combination of solo performances on violin and piano, my two favorite instruments. I thought about how the world would be more harmonious if we all appreciated that each of us contributes something beautiful to the whole song of life.
When I hear Gil Shahan play violin, the sensual sounds that emanate from his instrument are so sweet, and it sounds like the violin is actually talking to me in a language that only my heart and soul understand. And oh, the glorious agony of a Rachmaninoff cello sonata! Yes, it was love at first listen for me and classical music.
Today, I just love to hear a good beat. I recently heard a great song about attending church with a grandmother from Chance the Rapper, and decided to listen to his new CD, Coloring Book, a gospel-rap masterpiece, a new way to listen to someone praise God. I have music by black and white gospel artists, for the color of the musician’s skin is not important to me, but the lyrical nature of their music.
I believe that God understood just how much our souls needed the beauty of music, and He instilled a desire for sound in our heartds, so that we would want to create instruments to praise Him. Psalm 150:3-5 states, “Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet; praise Him with harp and lyre. Praise Him with tambourine and dancing; praise Him with the strings and flute. Praise Him with clashing cymbals; praise Him with resounding cymbals.”
I praise Hi for the beauty of music and of its ability to tear down walls of difference and unite our hearts and souls. A good beat will get us up out of our seats, and we will dance with abandon with people we usually don’t try to know. I have seen this happen at concerts and parties. For me, that is the sweetness of music.