Music and Wyrd

 
Music is weird - is wyrd. It comes from nowhere, returns to nowhere, and yet can reach deep within our soul, creating a sense of 'home', of knowing, of being. Sequences of sounds and silences appear in people's minds, to be shared with others in any way they may. And every society, every sub-culture, has its own way of expression through music, its own weaving, of time, of pattern, of texture...

Weird...

So why not let it be that way? Why not work with the wyrdness, for a change, instead of trying so hard to control it? Might get a bit more enjoyment out of the music, too...

Even if we think of ourselves as 'not musical at all', music can interweave with us in some pretty weird ways - which we can use to help us, once we're aware of them. For example, Gerry Weinberg, one of the most respected consultants in the computer business, describes one of these strange threads as a kind of 'inner Songmeister' that sends him helpful warnings when he's about to go badly wrong:

"My head is full of my mother's family recipes [like the old family recipe for body fat]. For instance, there's an entire volume labelled 'How to Create a Rebellious Teenage Son'. This cookbook lay dormant in my brain until my own son Chris reached that notorious age. I received a note from his English teacher concerning his behavior. As I read the note, I found myself stewing with anger and broiling with plans for punishment. It was a nourishing recipe, and I savored my plans like a fine dinner.
"I know I was savoring my plans because whenever I particularly enjoy a meal, I
hum a tune. I'm usually too involved with real food to notice what tune I'm humming, but this time the food was only imaginary, so I noticed. I can't imagine where I learned this golden oldie, but it was 'Just Before The Battle, Mother, I Am Thinking Most Of You' - a perfect White Bread Warning. I was about to enter a battle with my son in which I would pass on the same recipe for rebellion my mother had so generously bestowed on me."
[Gerald M. Weinberg, Secrets Of Consulting, p.101]

For you, though, if you're reading this, it's likely that music isn't just a spectator sport: it's something that's part of you, yet seems somehow to have a life of its own, and probably won't let go even if you want it to! It's certainly true for many people: most, perhaps, if we'll let it through into our lives, past the 'silliness barrier' and around the wall of 'won't-power' - the wall of "no, it's too difficult, I can't do that, I'll never be good enough...". Music is a major thread of the wyrd - or more accurately a clustering of threads around a common theme - and as such are available in everyone's life, in one way or another. How we face that thread is up to us: as with every other aspect of the wyrd, says Murphy, there's always a choice - and there's always a twist.

Music is fun, music is meaningful, music is something we can share with others. It's one of the few areas in life in which we can always retain that crucial element of childlikeness - we don't 'work' music, we play it. But this is the wyrd we're talking about: and the twist is that somehow, somewhere - we just don't where - the magic within the music can just vanish without warning, leaving us as stranded and lost as a marble in a forgotten corner of a kindergarten floor. When that feeling hits, it's not surprising that we may well feel like giving up - permanently...

Yet this 'dark night of the soul' is a perfectly normal weaving of the wyrd, a harsh yet transitory moment in the labyrinthine process of learning any skill - uncomfortable, certainly, yet survivable, as long as we just keep going, and let the music be as it is. If we try to hold onto it, it ceases to be the music: it becomes a dead beetle pinned to a card, with a dead label printed beside it, the colour fading to nothingness. So like the wyrd itself, we can live our music best by allowing it to be as it is, talking with us and through us in its own weird way. Letting it be as it is, we found out more about who we are - and why and how we do what we do.

Another twist comes through from the heart of music, the soul of music. Music expresses hope, joy, passion, fear - every possible emotion. Music expresses who we are, as individuals, as members of a clan, a clustering of friends, a nation, a people; our past, our present, our hopes and fears for the future. It can also be used as a symbol of separation from others, or from our own past: the strident music of protest, perhaps, against profiteers or parents! Yet ultimately, as part of the wyrd, even the music will challenge us - will bring to the surface all our doubts, our fears, our uncertainties. And that's hard - especially as most musical 'education' gives us no way to handle it at all...

That's where an understanding - and acceptance - of the deep wyrdness of music can help: which is what Heart of Music is all about. We'll develop these themes more on this web-site in the coming months: but for now two useful threads to follow are the problems of practice, especially in conventional music education; and the weird nature of 'instrument as mask', which can open many new possibilities for expression. You'll also find some other themes and ideas listed here - but do let us know your own experiences of this, so that we can share them with others!