An attempt to explain what music means to me

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Today at church, Music Sunday at the Unitarian-Universalist Church of Berkeley, we performed 4 different sections of the Mozart Requiem with orchestra, choir, and soloists. I got the chance, along with 4 other choir members, to give a 2-minute speech sharing our musical journey. Below is what I had to say:

“Hi. I’m Lucymarie Ruth, a choir member here going on 12 years.

First, an apology. What I’m about to say is laden with self-interest, and, like all self-interest, implies a universality which it does not, in fact, possess.

Music, the greatest music at any rate, is the most paradoxical thing I know, and I am captivated by it. Music, whose sounds are ever so immanent and beautiful, brings to us a transcendent reality, the knowledge of which is, to me, probably unknowable by any other means, certainly not by religious belief. Music is, however, both aesthetic and religious: religious in the sense that it binds us together, for better or for worse: worse as in goose-stepping to the Horst Wessel Song, or better as in singing Beethoven’s and Schiller’s Ode to Joy –  “Deine Zauber binden wieder, was die Mode streng geteilt” (Joy, bright spark of divinity, Thy magic power binds together again  All that custom has divided.); and music is religious in the sense that it sometimes gives us a glimpse of the transcendent. The greatest music uses time to abolish time, psychological time at any rate, bringing to us the presence of eternity, for a short moment. The composer, no matter how hard he or she works at writing a composition in the here-and-now, is convinced that whatever music he or she hears and writes down is a gift, seemingly from heaven, or at least from some transcendental realm. Music beautifully expresses our most immanent joys and fears, our highest exaltation  and our most abysmal trepidation, and does so in such a wonderfully coherent fashion, uniting our entire self in a context where suddenly, and all too briefly, the world is no longer Absurd, and the universe makes perfect sense. The Mozart “Requiem” is a good example.”