Sunday, May 15, 2011

The power of music

I recently read Mad Maudlin and Music to My Sorrow by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill. Both speak of the power of music. In these books, the musical people have magical powers which strengthen the effect of the music, but music can be powerful even without supernatural abilities.

In Mad Maudlin, some journalists visiting the homeless shelter gave candy to the children. It was naptime, but, having had too much sugar, the children are not in a napping frame of mind.
Sure enough, it looked like the aftermath of a tornado. The mats the kids were supposed to nap on were everywhere, and so were the kids. Rather than trying to get their attention, Hosea just settled into a corner with [his banjo] Jeanette, opened her case, tuned her quickly, and started to play, softly, a medley of old lullabies his grandmother had taught him. The banjo notes fell among the screaming, running, fighting children like rain. And, like rain, at first the music just ran off them without any effect. But as he willed calm and peace and sleepiness into the music, gradually fights broke up, kids dropped down onto mats, the noise quieted. Some of them looked up at him in suprise, as if they hadn't realized that he was there; others dragged their mats over to his corner and flung themselves down to listen. Yawns began, and yawning was contagious. Eyelids drooped, heads went down onto arms. --p. 296
Another character in the book, Ace, has the ability to influence people with her singing. Throughout her life, her preacher father has used her in his services to inspire people to donate money. Now a teenager, she has escaped this manipulation by running away from home and avoiding singing. Then there comes a situation in which a bad person has summoned a magical being who has killed him in front of about 2 dozen onlookers. Ace's companions have rushed to the scene to remedy the situation. They use music to soothe the onlookers, and Ace starts singing with them.
The song's words spoke of love, of endless forgiveness and healing, and as Ace sang, everyone in the room felt those things, blending into the magic, soothing the frightened panicky people, making it easier for the spell to do its work. --p. 420
Her companions had been unaware of her abilities, so afterwards, Hosea asked her about it.
"It's what I do," she said bitterly. "I can make anybody believe any kind of lie."

"But you weren't lyin'," Hosea said. "You were helpin' them see the truth. Girl, ain't it true that there's love, an' love forgives? Ain't it true that God -- whatever name you want to call Him by -- don't want nothin' for us but what's right and good for us? It's a powerful Gift, if you use it rightly. Have you evern thought that if you were given a goodly gift, you could choose to do goodly things with it?" --p. 421
In Music to My Sorrow, the sequel to Mad Maudlin, Ace does choose to use her gift in a positive way. Her father once preached a message of love, but under the influence of an evil elfin prince, his message has become infused with hatred. He holds a concert for his followers, with a band which projects hateful energy. Ace and her friends sneak in and offer a competing performance. As Ace sings "Amazing Grace," the crowd responds.
...those thousands of listeners looked in the mirror of her song, and saw themselves....Saw, at least in this moment; and, at least in this moment, realized all the pain they were creating. Realized that the Grace that had sacrificed itself for them, had done so in vain, because in their hate, their fear, and their rejection of everything that was just a little different from them, they had turned away from that Grace, and into the Shadow....But it's never too late to heal, the music seemed to say. Let the anger pass when the time for it is done, and leave the hate behind forever....You have stood in the Shadow, now come to the Light, for the Light will still, ever and always, welcome you, forgive you, want you still. Flawed and ugly as your hearts and soul are, the Light wants you to come home and be made beautiful again. --pp. 304-305.
Reading these books inspired me to do more with music. I think music speaks to the soul. I'd like to choose songs for my radio show carefully, to choose songs which will minister to my listeners. I would like to plan religious services which use music. I would like to learn to make music. Learning to play a musical instrument seems doable. Learning to lead people in song seems impossible, since I can't carry a tune, and yet it seems much more appealing.

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