I was stopped on my tracks by a symphony the other day. It was late afternoon and I thought I could sit and have coffee just across the street where I live. But on the way there, I passed an orchestra, rehearsing on a makeshift stage. “What grace!” I thought. I only wanted solitude and coffee and yet here I was, being regaled with a serenade and an entire ensemble. It was, music to my ears. And so I stopped and sat back, one of a handful of people who felt amazed by an endowment of art from the Muses.
I listened, enthralled by the wonder of a symphony orchestra. How can strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion beat so differently and yet create harmony befitting the gods? Each instrument was different from the other, owning a different pitch, a tone or texture. The strings strummed melodic tunes, the woodwinds piped in the highs, the brass tooted majestic sounds, and the percussion thumped rhythmic beats. And yet, as diverse as they were, they each had an equally grand offering to give. They each had an equally monumental part to perform. And as distinct as their gifts and roles were, they each played in harmony to create one symphonic masterpiece. Every player was attuned to the Maestro’s beat. Not one instrument overpowered nor imposed its tune on another. No instrument drowned another’s sound. They neither clashed nor were dissonant. Instead they strummed, tooted, or plunked only when the melody called for them, awaiting tempo, their own perfect time, and especially granting others the space to play the fullest, perfect rendition of themselves.
And I suddenly had an intimation of the highest possibilities of humanity. Maybe we ought to create beautiful music together, create harmony befitting the gods. What if we played in unity like the strings, brass, drums and woodwinds of a symphony? If enlightened flutes and clarinets soared high and yet chimed in to the pulse of the oboe? If powerful trumpets and tubas gave strength in needed places but stayed still at other times? If violins, cellos, and guitars celebrated each other’s divergent characteristics, and did so without envy? If drums and cymbals didn’t clash and bang but held all others in steady beats, giving rhythm. And what if we all played out our distinct gifts and role in the ensemble, attuned to the same symphonic masterpiece? Without anyone drowning out another; without clashes; each one in rhythm; and each one allowing the others to perform their rendition to the music? Maybe then, all this wailing, this clamor, this discord, the din and the disquiet will stop. And maybe we can finally be regaled with a serenade by the stars. And maybe music can finally be heard. And I thought: “What grace!”
Music takes us out of the actual and whispers to us dim secrets that startle our wonder as to who we are, and for what, whence, and whereto. Ralph Waldo Emerson