My first high school chorus teacher, Mrs. Wright, told us that if we listened to recordings of Beethoven, we should listen to them loud. You can’t appreciate the passion and joy in his music without being immersed in it.
I like to listen to chant the same way. If you sing chant, you know that it’s a full body experience. The harmonies zip through the vessels of the body faster than blood, telling each cell, “You were made for this.”
Music shifts the barometric pressure in my soul.
Today I participated in two very loud musical performances. The first was in my kitchen, surrounded by children. We plucked plastic coffee bottles from the recycling and made the room resound with rhythm. Over the steady beat, I sang songs: “Down By the Station,” “Sing a Song of Sixpence,” “Lavender’s Blue,” “The Brave Old Duke of York,” “10 Green Bottles,” “We Are Marching in the Light of God,” “I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say.” The babies head bopped and danced and helped make the music.
The second was as an audience member in a theater, enthralled by the gorgeous Met HD broadcast of Madame Butterfly. My friend and I soaked up beauty for 3.5 hours. We wowed and wept, held in the beauty that wrapped each person’s grief and joy in song. In a word, the experience was palliative.
My mouth has been full of songs of my own making and the songs I happened on or heard. Lately, the loudest ones, the songs that raised me up and taught me and patted me and sent me on my way, were the clear, soft lullabies I sing my children. My youngest son doesn’t talk much, but he sings these sweet, high songs back to me. Our connection has always been in blood and bone and music, from his first fragile days when I wrapped him in red silk and sang him arias over the beeps of life support machines. His language is song.
We hope in the coming weeks to learn how to communicate more with our little one, but for now I am grateful for these three things: that there is music, that my boy can understand it, that his mother is loud.