"Beautiful music is the art of the prophets that can calm the agitations of the soul; it is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us. "
-Martin LutherI've often found it hard to express the exact effect beautiful music has on me. As is often the case, the quote above proves that someone else has said it better than I could have possibly said it myself. Beautiful music has a way of being able to calm even the greatest agitations of my soul.
Have you ever listened to a song and felt like you were completely sucked up inside it? Sometimes I close my eyes while listening to a song and feel as if I am swimming through an ocean of sound. It's as if someone poured the individual parts of the song into a pool and pushed me in headlong.
I can remember as a child growing up I would take the newest cd I had and lock myself in my room for hours at a time. I'd put the cd on, lie on my bed, close my eyes, and take in every note of every song until I knew them all by heart.
Even today in the midst of a completely quiet room, I can play back certain songs with all of their parts intact completely inside my head. I like to call it my "internal radio."
Of all the ways that the Lord chooses to reveal Himself to me, I've always found him the most in music. I believe the Lord moves and works through all music whether secular or Christian. A lot of Christians believe you should only listen to Christian music, but I've frequently been moved and led to worship God in the midst of music from people that have no interest in Him whatsoever.
One great example of God hidden in the secular can be found in the new album "So Beautiful or So What" by the iconic singer/songwriter Paul Simon. In an article titled "So Beautiful or So What So Christian?" Cathleen Falsani quotes Steve Stockman, a Protestant clergyman and music critic from Northern Ireland, as saying "[the album is] so God-drenched that it could win best Christian album of the year." Simon, however, doesn't consider himself to be the least bit religious.
In her article "The mysterious psalms of Paul Simon," Kim Lawton quotes Simon discussing his Jewish upbringing as follows:
"I was raised to a degree enough to be bar mitzvahed and have that much Jewish education, although I had no interest. None."
As he ages, however, it seems that he has began to reflect more and more on the spiritual:
"[Religion] is a part of my thoughts on a fairly regular basis. I think of it more as spiritual feeling. It's something that I recognize in myself and that I enjoy, but I don't quite understand it."To not have much interest in religion, Simon frequently captures it's essence beautifully:
"After you climb the ladder of time, The Lord God is near. Face-to-face in the vastness of space, your words disappear. And you feel like you're swimming in an ocean of love and the current is strong. But all that remains when you try to explain is a fragment of a song." - The Afterlife from So Beautiful or So WhatWhen asked how he felt about being a "God chronicler by accident", Simon says:
"[I'm] gratified -- and somewhat mystified -- that some people have told [me] they believe God has spoken to them through [my] music....Is it a profound truth? I don't know. I feel I'm like a vessel, and it passed through me, and I was the editor, and I'm glad."Interestingly enough, one of the albums that I frequently find myself completely lost in drops a "F-bomb" in the middle of one of the most beautiful songs. Take a moment and listen to Bon Iver's (non-F-bomb) performance of the song "Holocene" (from his self-titled album Bon Iver) on SNL this past weekend:
While you're at it, check out Beth/Rest from the same episode:
Beautiful isn't it?
As with most things I write, this blog post started out one way and then took a completely different turn from it's intended purpose. What I would like most for you (the reader) to take away from this, however, is an open-mindedness to seeing God in unlikely places.
Whether it's in a song, a movie, a book, or an empty field, take time to look closely enough and you'll begin to see the fabric of God woven into the minute details of everyday life.
So go listen, watch, read, and take in all that God has made and rejoice in all of His creation and not just the overly Christian parts.
While you're at it, drop me a comment and let me know what song or album swallows you up the way I described above. I'd love to give it a listen.