I've been reading a fascinating book lately called Musicophilia. Oliver Sacks, a neurologist at
Here are the first few lines from the preface:
What an odd thing it is to see an entire species--billions of people--playing with, listening to, meaningless tonal patterns, occupied and preoccupied for much of their time by what they call "music."
The book provides Sacks's analysis of why and how music is processed by our brains and includes details of various neurological conditions of the musical variety: musical seizures, musicogenic epilepsy, absolute pitch, musical savants, music and blindness, and music and amnesia, to name a few.
Imagine my surprise when I encountered Dr. Sacks last night at my friendly neighborhood Kroger. Well, I didn't actually encounter him in person, but he did pop up unexpectedly in the magazine I was flipping through while I was in line waiting to check-out. Very strategically, I had decided to go to the grocery store at the very busiest time of day (around 5pm--not recommended.) The line was l-o-n-g. I picked up an Oprah magazine and noticed my friend, Dr. Sacks, right there in the table of contents. I flipped to the article and began to read. A few minutes later the words began to swim around on the page--due to my tears, which I quickly tried to choke back before it was time to hand my Kroger card to the cashier. (If you read the article--the part that got me was Woody, his wife, and his daughter singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." Read it. You'll see.)
I did a quick search to see if I could find it online. Here it is:
Wired for Sound, O Magazine--Dec. 2008
Here's an excerpt:
But not only is music one of the fundamental ways we bond with each other, it literally shapes our brains. Perhaps this is so because musical activity involves many parts of the brain (emotional, motor, and cognitive areas), even more than we use for our other great human achievement, language. This is why it can be such an effective way to remember or to learn. It is no accident that we teach our youngest children with rhymes and songs. As anyone who can't get an advertising jingle or a popular song out of their head knows, music burrows its way deep into the nervous system, so deep, in fact, that even when people suffer devastating neurological disease or injury, music is usually the last thing they lose.
(Emphasis mine....isn't that an incredible sentence...?)
I believe that our Creator is the ultimate musician. He intermingled the laws of physics, mathematical patterns, our biological capabilities (hearing, vision), and our emotional receptors to give us one of His most precious gifts: the gift of music. The ability to create music. The ability to listen to and perform music. As a means of celebration. As a means of mourning. As a means of linking us together in community with one another. As a trigger for memory. As a means of bringing comfort to a child. As a means of worship.
When I start to marvel at the gift of music--this blessing that has been poured out like a river of goodness, beauty, and meaning into the cracks and corners of my life--I always think about the following passage (and all the parts around it) from The Magician's Nephew:
In the darkness something was happening at last. A voice had begun to sing.....it was, beyond comparison the most beautiful noise he had ever heard. It was so beautiful he could hardly bear it......The Lion was pacing to and fro about that empty land and singing his new song. It was softer and more lilting than the song by which he had called up the stars and the sun; a gentle, rippling music. And as he walked and sang the valley grew green with grass. It spread out from the Lion like a pool.
Far overhead from beyond the veil of blue sky which hid them the stars sang again...and the deepest wildest voice they had ever heard was saying: "Narnia, Narnia, Narnia, awake. Love. Think. Speak. Be walking trees. Be talking beasts. Be divine waters."