Some tribal cultures believe that the act of creation takes place through music. They literally sing their homes, their villages and their valleys into existence. They keep them strong and real regularly and ritually through music and belief. It’s a little like prayer, isn’t it? Somewhere in the world, someone is chanting their own universe into being right now. We modern folk are not so different from this. We speak of being in tune, of needing harmony and rhythm to feel complete and alive. We create our own realities with our words and our songs, our eyes and our hands. Each world is defined by our own outline, the envelope of skin and nerves and light and air we inhabit. Every time we push against something, we feel ourselves.
Somaprabha and a Celestial Nymph Listening to Music Kathasaritsagara Painting, ca 1590
People listening to songs are like people reading novels: for a few minutes, for a few hours, someone else gets to come in and hijack that part of your brain that’s always thinking. A good book or song kidnaps your interior voice and does all the driving. With the artist in charge you’re free for a little while to leave your body and be someone else.
A few minutes ago every tree was excited, bowing to the roaring storm, waving, swirling, tossing their branches in glorious enthusiasm like worship. But though to the outer ear these trees are now silent, their songs never cease. Every hidden cell is throbbing with music and life, every fiber thrilling like harp strings, while incense is ever flowing from the balsam bells and leaves. No wonder the hills and groves were God’s first temples, and the more they are cut down and hewn into cathedrals and churches, the farther off and dimmer seems the Lord himself.