One of my favorite classes in college was 20th Century Music History. On the first day, the teacher started with a definition of what music is. He said, “Music is sound within time.” It sounded pretty basic. I remember that even this broad definition would come to be challenged with composer John Cage’s 1952 composition: 4′33″, a piece that consists entirely of rests.
Another definition of music I like is by the French composer Claude Debussy. He said, “Music is the space between the notes.”
I recently took part in a four-day silent meditation retreat. There were about twenty other people on the retreat with me. We spent all four days eating, sleeping, and meditating under the same roof. There was very little communication and we were encouraged to try and refrain from even looking each other in the eye as much as possible.
I’m always amazed at how connected I can feel after spending four days without talking. One starts to notice all the subtle ways in which we relate to our environment and other people. It reminds me a little of Debussy’s definition of music.
What distinguishes music from just any other sound has as much to do with how we perceive the sound as it does with the sound itself. The same can go for how we relate to other people.
Whether it’s a baby crying or a Bach Symphony when we are able to remain present and aware of the expectations we bring to each moment we developed an ability to notice the music in between the notes.
Below is a playlist of songs that have resonated with me in the past month. I hope they bring more joy to your life. Thanks for listening, MMM
Included are songs by: Danielson, Sufjan Stevens, Yo La Tengo, Soundwalk Collective, Patti Smith, April Sevens, New Order, Dungen, Angel Du$t, Panda Bear, Yura Yura Teikoku, Kip Tyler, Sparklehorse, King Tuff, Gorillaz, The Stooges, Alice Coltrane
(Subscribe to get a new playlist every 1st Monday of the month. Click on my user link or search: Major Matt’s 1st Monday on Spotify to cruise past playlists and discover more music.)