Is Music Just For Entertainment?

29th September 2010

Have you ever noticed how much music we hear nowadays? It’s everywhere—in shops, in restaurants, in the ads on TV, in computer games… You can’t get away from music.

Yet because there is so much music around, people are turning off. They don’t notice music anymore. They think it’s not that important. It’s just entertainment. It’s just something you hear in the background…

Sometimes I just want to scream! Music can be so different. It can be something that is so rich and so beautiful that it feels like your heart and mind are going to explode! This feeling can even last for days, well after the music has finished!!

I had an experience like this recently. Actually, I had two. Last week I went to two amazing concerts at the Symphony Hall in Birmingham. One was Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 and the other was Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde. Let me tell you about them.

Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 is often called the ‘Symphony of a Thousand’. It needs hundreds of people to perform. Just being in a room with this many people making music together is enough to blow your mind! But this symphony is also about the important things in life. It’s about working hard. It’s about forgiveness. But most of all, it’s about love. At the end of the concert of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 last week, I had the strangest vision. It was like I had climbed a really steep mountain. Suddenly at the top was a cliff. And over this cliff was bright white light. This white light was a place of love; a place of rest; and a place where all the problems that the world has ever had were gone. What would you think of such a place?

Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde is an opera that lasts about 5 hours! This is also about love, but a very different sort of love to Mahler’s Symphony No. 8. And it’s about other things too—like whether it’s better to be popular and do what other people want, or whether it’s better to be unpopular and do your heart is telling you. I know my children face this problem every day at school. What about you?

If 5 hours of music about these things wasn’t enough, the concert last week also had video as well! This video illustrated what was going on in the music and helped me think about it even more.

And I can tell you I was completely exhausted at the end! I was filled up to overflowing. I couldn’t sleep that night. All I could hear, see, and think about the next day was the music. Nothing else seemed to matter.

How different is that from most people’s experience of music?

How different is that from your experience of music?

 

If you can’t imagine having an experience of music like mine, watch this video of the beginning of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde. Be patient. Watch it all. Concentrate. You probably won’t be filled up to overflowing at the end, but I’m sure you will agree this is not just music for the background! It’s too important for that.

Prelude to Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde

Video credits:
  1. 1(2) Tristan und Isolde – Prelude and Liebestod- BARENBOIM PROMS 09. 1(2) Tristan und Isolde (WAGNER) Prelude and Liebestod-
    West-Eastern Divan Orchestra
    Daniel Barenboim conductor
    21/08/2009
    Royal Albert Hall (London)
    PROMS 09.

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