Musings on Music

Well, this definitely falls under the classification of random musing! I also find it deliciously conflicted that I’m musing on music. Ha ha! Well, here we go!

In the last year, I have run into many people that have reminded me of the mathematical qualities of music. After all, there are whole notes, quarter notes, half notes, etc. And music results in frequencies that are both predictable and determinate. At the base of mathematics is logic and reason. After all, 2+2=4 because there is a reasonable building of 2 on 2 resulting in the logical conclusion of 4.

As such, we can conclude that music, while being mathematical, is also logical. After all, musical theory is based on logical structures of music, shown to flow naturally and properly. If you’ve spent much time in music, you can usually predict (with some accuracy) where the flow of a piece will go. Put more specifically, if I hear the arrangement of the previous 4-6 notes, I can make reasonable estimations of where the next notes will fall. Granted, the possibilities are greater than one possibility, but they are far from incalculable, if I know one thing: was the piece composed for the pleasure of the listener or to promote dissonance.

Mind you, I am not expert on music. This is merely my experiences either from being the son of a music major and a personal love of music or from those I have known who have taken the time to teach me details of musical theory and such.

But here’s an interesting collision. Music evokes emotion. In fact, composed properly, it can evoke specific emotions. A composer can lead a person to feel passion, anger, grief, irritation, etc. Granted, each person will interpret the composition through various lenses, but it is still very likely that the piece will evoke the intended emotion.

So, here’s where this gets most interesting. As I have made clear on this blog, and in real life, I see this world through a lens of what’s termed general revelation. By this, I mean that I believe God has revealed Himself throughout His creation.   As such, anywhere I look, and I can find some attribute of God in what He has created. There is always some fingerprint of the Artist on His masterpiece.

Today, as I was listening to a much-loved composition, I noted that while it was music, which is considered mathematical (thus logical, as shown above), I was also emotionally affected by it.   As such, I came to a personal conclusion that music reveals an interesting aspect of God. In this incredible medium, which affects so many people and can aid memory recall tremendously, we find a poetic mystery. Logic and emotion are wonderfully entangled in a unique and moving way.

Rarely does pure logic affect the emotional state of a person. Rarely do emotions mix well with logic.   Yet, in the mystery of music, the two are entwined, logic granting emotional response and emotions built by logical structures, in the forms of notes, rhythm, and movements. Normally, emotions must bow to logic or logic is tainted by emotion.   In many cases, emotion and logic being mixed usually results in one or both being compromised.

Yet, in music both are really needed to properly convey whatever thought evoked the piece. And, as if miraculously, both come together in what might have appeared as an impossible relationship. The notes of the piece, the rhythm, any lyrics, and all movements combine together to evoke emotional responses, which, even in the simplest, can cause us to remember lyrics even decades later! Words that hold little specific meaning to us can become imbedded in our minds because the tune was catchy.

I think this is why music has become such a powerful medium.   It is one of the few things in this world that most reflects God Himself. (Yes, I am making that statement carefully.) We can see evidence of His love, attributes of mercy, power, beauty, etc. But in music, we find a unique intertwining of logic and emotion, a medium that expresses itself through the air, a force which can have a profound effect on one or many at any given time, and an expression which conveys some aspect of the author. It is a profound expression, which points to the reality that only in a world with a profoundly expressive God could we get such an expression. (I could go on to argue this, but I’ll leave it as a simple statement for now.)

Enjoy the music! =)

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