A friend recently told me about an “art in public places” program that has been going on here in northern Colorado since 2010. Donated pianos are decorated with murals by local artists, and community members are welcome to interact with the artists while they’re painting.
When the pianos are finished, they’re placed in locations about town for passersby to play. Talk about a harmonious activity! All of those people appreciating art and playing pianos around town are bound to move peace up a notch in the community!
It brings to mind that well-known, but often misquoted, line from English playwright, William Congreve’s poem, The Mourning Bride, written in 1697. We all know it as, “music soothes the savage beast.” In reality the first few lines of that poem say:
Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast,
To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.
Yes, the thought of music soothing a savage beast might be more vivid than the charms of music soothing a savage breast (whatever that even means) but pretty impressive to me is the idea that music can charm a rock into softness, or a sturdy knotted oak into a new shape.
No matter how you quote or think about those age-old ideas, we would probably all agree that there’s something about music that can empower and strengthen, as well as soothe and inspire, the most difficult people and situations. Even the most hardened heart can be softened by a sweet melody.
One of my favorite examples of the power of music bringing peace is found in the Bible in the first book of Samuel, chapter 16. The story is that King Saul is plagued by “an evil spirit” that comes upon him from time to time. His helpful servants suggest he find someone who “is a cunning player on an harp.” They tell the king that when he is tormented, the music will heal him. If you’re familiar with the story, you know they call for David, the son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, to take this musical position. His harp playing does bring comfort to the king and although David and Saul’s relationship is a long and complicated one, it starts with David’s soothing music. (See 1st and 2nd Samuel.)
So, what is behind the power of music to soothe and make us feel peaceful?
In the study of Christian Science, one of the synonyms used for God is Soul. Soul isn’t man’s individuality trapped inside a material body waiting to escape at some point, although this is commonly believed.
Soul is God itself—divine individuality. God causes each of us to express His identity in an infinite amount of individual ways. Art and music are a couple of the ways God expresses Himself through us.
An artist’s perfect placement of form, outline, color, is actually the artist’s expression of spiritual qualities—beauty, vibrancy, structure, and excellence. The final project may look very material, but that feeling you get when you see the perfect combination of ideas, is your spiritual sense appreciating God’s manifestation of beauty which is completely spiritual and is as present as God, divine Spirit is at that very moment.
Music works the same way. The peace that music can bring at the end of a chaotic day has its source in God, Soul. Music is an idea. Those harmonious ideas live on even if the CD or the musician is no longer available. Mary Baker Eddy puts it this way, “Mental melodies and strains of sweetest music supersede conscious sound. Music is the rhythm of head and heart” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 213).
So, the next time you listen to your favorite song, be sure to recognize its divine source. Like Saul when David played for him, you’ll feel peaceful. And you'll know that the soothing nature of that melody is the rhythm of the heart and has the power to heal.
For more information on pianos around town dance on over to my mountaintop moments page!
I hope these insights will inspire readers to think more spiritually about themselves and the world around them!