Music and Myth

We saw the Tokyo String Quartet at Colburn today. My kids had trouble with it. Sitting still was impossible for Elkin, a drag for Asher, and difficult for Orion. Robert spent the first half in the lobby with Elkin and I took over after intermission. Still, the experience was a memorable one.

There’s something lovely about sitting in the dark listening to music. Even though you could hear the music in the lobby it didn’t have half the impact it did in the chamber. In there, the music captivated me. I was truly in awe of the human mind, body, and spirit. I was overwhelmed at the perfect harmony that exists within and amongst each musician as he brought the music from a black and white page to life. I had a hard time comprehending how men and women, as old and as young as these, could hit so many notes so quickly and so precisely with so much expression. It was truly amazing! I tend to miss that sense of wonder when recorded music is played as a backdrop to conversation, task, and life in general. It becomes part of the backdrop instead of the highlight of what’s really going on.

Last night I started to look deeper at myth and archetype. I found enough insight for a lifetime in Campbell’s essay on mythological themes in literature. It will take me that long to untangle all the ideas that stem from his. I was particularly drawn to build out of this bit:

“..there have nevertheless been certain irreducible psychological problems inherent in the very biology of our species, which have remained constant, and have, consequently, so tended to control and structure the myths and rites in their service that, in spite of all the differences that have been recognized, analyzed, and stressed by sociologists and historians, there run through the myths of all mankind the common strains of a single symphony of the soul.”

I guess that’s what I’m most interested in at this moment. If adolescence feels like a lonely place, I now recognize the almost infinite crowd I am a part of. My questions are universal. Maybe that’s why I like people so much. I recognize myself in them. Our lives don’t seem that different. I really felt that way when I was a little girl. I didn’t think the adults around me realized that I felt the same way they did. I wanted to remember when I grew up, like holding on to a dream in the early morning hours, that children do feel as much as grown-ups do. I wanted to remember that my pain was as real as theirs and not to downplay my own children’s suffering. I wanted to remember that even though someone else might have been suffering worse circumstances than I, my suffering could only be compared to my own experiences, and pain is pain. It hurts.

I think the concert today was a reminder of that earnest little girl’s promise to remember. This time, though, it wasn’t discounted pain that drew the memory, it was discounted miracles. It was a reminder to stop long enough to pay attention to the wonder all around us. It was a reminder to pay attention to the magic that is in us, around us, unnoticed and unappreciated.

I highly recommend a concert for everyone once in a while, even those who have trouble sitting still.




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