Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Thinking about the music

I've been thinking about music today. Over the last year or so, I have acquired several "box sets" of CDs which include most or all of the albums of a particular artist. A few weeks ago, I decided to get them all out and listen to the whole batch in precise chronological order. That's the music set-up.

Now I need you to permit me a necessary digression. There is a particular type of Catholic spirituality, derived from St. Ignatius of Loyola's Spiritual Exercises, called active contemplation. It is similar to Carl Jung's "active imagination." In religious practice, the participant uses Scripture and his or her own imagination to place themselves into the Gospel story, etc. in order to experience it more completely. That's the rest of the set-up.

So I started listening to the CDs yesterday, but as I was driving and listening to music from the mid- to late 1960s, I began drifting into the music in a way I had not expected. As in Ignatian Contemplation, I found myself experiencing the music as I might have in, say, April of 1968. Suddenly, I was returning home from the record store and marveling at the songwriting of Paul Simon as I listened to Bookends for the first time. Later, I heard the chants of "The whole world is watching..." from Chicago's 1969 debut album. I could picture myself recalling those awful August nights 8 months earlier as I tried to categorize the new sounds coming from the vinyl.

Most vividly, I could feel the electricity in the crowd as I listened to Simon and Garfunkel in concert in late 1969, when they tested the new material which would make up their next album in a month or two. In those moments, I heard "Bridge Over Troubled Water" as for the first time. Tears rolled down my face in silent testimony to the power of the music and a tingle ran up my spine as I heard the crowd's reaction from that November night 46 years ago mirroring my own. I could get used to music this way.

Thanks for reading. I'll try to do better next time.

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