Flow of music and life

When we listen to music, I believe, what we really appreciate is its flow: the succession of notes and the global relationships between them. The process is inherently (physically) immediate and discrete, i.e., we do not hear the notes that are to come (or that were already played); we hear only what hits our ears Now after Now..

Despite this, the musical process is essentially a holistic experience. What we call music is in fact a succession of notes that offers more than the sum of individual auditory experiences. The music is not contained in a single note that was played at a certain moment, rather it is in all the notes. The musical content of a singled out note is elusive and incomplete and any attempt to understand or appreciate the whole piece from it is vain. More succinctly: we cannot apply the reductionist principle to music. In my opinion.

“A process cannot be understood by stopping it. Understanding must move with the flow of the process, must join it and flow with it.” – The First Law of Mentat, quoted by Paul Atreides to Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam (Dune)

This insight, that we got from the musical experience, clarifies and illustrates well the basic processes underlying most of everyday life.

Many people try hard to get the full picture; to understand what’s going on in their lives (or others’ lives) in a given situation. They (un)consciously hope to stop time to have … time to figure things out. However, just like in the case of music (replace note by present moment), stopping time will not be of much help here. I have seen people being sad and tormented for years because of such attempts (they call them ‘needs’) to understand what happened or what ‘would have happened if’.. and (necessarily) putting themselves aside the flow of life.

Life is a flow, the instant is fleeting and intangible. These are facts we must accept and integrate in our perception of reality.

In addition to any emotional state, there is a rational vision of life that plays a central role in the way we live any given situation. Just like we learn to listen to music, we should learn to live; to see the flow of life as it is: a succession of movements, some of them are sad, others joyful. Some are fast, others slow … but the whole piece is as beautiful as mysterious. The mystery of music is the mystery of life, so let us move with the flow of life and listen to its symphonies and sonatas. The more we accept our ignorance, the more we appreciate the beauty of life and … the more we are (or feel) free.

did you sleep on the grass at night
and let space be your blanket
abstaining from all that will come
forgetful of all that has passed
give the flute then and sing
in singing is Justice for the heart
give the flute
and sing
forget illness and its cure
people are nothing but lines
which are scribbled on water.” – Khalil Gibran

Polyphonic music allows us to push the analogy between the flow of music and life even further  if we see the different intertwined voices as our own inner voices.


2 thoughts on “Flow of music and life

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