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Universal Language

A wonderful quote about music one will find floating around the Internet (sometimes cited, sometimes not), was given by David O. McKay in April General Conference 1945:

Music is truly the universal language, and when it is excellently expressed how deeply it moves our souls.

I love music. I truly do love it for a number of reasons.

Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and cannot remain silent.
~ Victor Hugo

There is nothing in a culture that so openly and unreservedly will tell you all you want to know as music. In many ways, to listen to a people’s music, is to come to better understand them. Whether it is the quarter-tones in the Arabic tonal system, the Okinawan Eisa drums and Sanshin (Shamisen), or the Native American flute, each music traditional teaches one about something about the people who developed, listened and loved this music. That’s why my music collection of over 8,000 songs (which honestly isn’t all that large compared to many people’s today) contains music from countries and cultures all over the world. Nothing seems to temporarily transport one to the wind-swept Tibetan Plateau as the haunting vocals of Yungchen Lhamo or to the sands of Hawai’i as the island vocals of Israel Kamakawiwo’ole and Keali’i Reichel.

This is a point upon which both eastern and western philosophy agree:

Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.
~ Plato

Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.
~ Confucius

So, we should make music; we should sing. And, today I did. Our ward choir is led by Jeff Howarth with the help of his wife Janice, and they pick wonderful music for our tiny amateur choir to sing. Today’s selection, which we’ve been working on for a number of weeks was John Rutter‘s All Things Bright and Beautiful. Here’s a rendition of it sung by the Cambridge Singers.

This is a beautiful Anglican hymn written in the middle of the nineteenth century. The first verse is as follows:

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.

My first introduction to this song came in a very different manner than through music, but through literature. As a young teenager, I read and was enthralled by James Herriot‘s books, each of which took a line from this first verse for its title. In fact, it wasn’t until years later that I learned the poem upon which the book titles were based was actually a hymn. So, today I can’t really listen to it without the book-born memories of a pastoral veterinarian practice in rural England flooding back.

And, that’s the way it is with music.

Music connects us with ourselves, our past and with others. It reminds us of how things are, how they were and how they could be. So, with that, I’ll end with one more John Rutter piece, once more performed by the Cambridge Singers, that our little choir did several weeks ago: Look at the World.

 I am comforted by the assurance that there will be beautiful music in heaven, and for that I am most grateful.
~ Spencer W. Kimball, Ensign, Nov. 1982, 4

 



About Trev Harmon

Software architect, educator, blogger, photographer, would-be designer, and a believer in the power of simplicity and human-based design. Dream-Learn-Discover

Comments

  1. Daniel Hardman says:

    The James Herriot books are a treasure. I had the same experience as you did–becoming familiar with the hymn only after reading the books.

    Thanks for including the quote from Spencer W. Kimball. Love it.

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  1. […] there is a feeling, an identity that comes from a culture’s musical tradition. It’s the universal language, and it has […]

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