Sunday, 16 October 2011

Why do we sing?

Well, yesterday was all about why we sing.
Jonathon Welch's keynote explored the question first up:
Apparently someone has done experiments with water, playing music or saying a word at a glass or bottle of water then freezing it. When you freeze water, crystals form. Depending on what word or music was directed at the water, the crystals took different shapes. Yes, water responds to words and music. Speaking hate at the water caused the crystals to shatter. We are 80% water. We respond physically to music; we respond physically to what is spoken to us and how.
Also, when we hear music, it is not the logical left side of the brain that responds, it is the emotional right side of the brain. We have no choice, but to respond to music. And this is how / why music helps us to open up emotionally; why it opens us up to healing.
Jonathon's experiences with choirs of people from disadvantaged situations shows how, even though they don't seek to be a counselling help group, or a rehab program, people bring all of who they are into every situation, and when it's a music situation, and the emotional part of our being is being opened up in this way, he and the other volunteers needed to be ready to respond and care for the members of the choir.

After morning tea (right, donated by Villi's), I attended a workshop with David Roach, on arts and healing.
Space is important for our healing - architecture of churches often resembles a striving for God, a looking beyond what we know towards the Divine, the Other. Healing is a looking beyond, looking beyond what we are experiencing now to a time without pain, suffering, illness ...
When it comes to healing spaces, it has been shown that in hospitals, patients who have a view to outside, nature, heal more quickly and effectively than those who don't. Windows are a portal, an escape - help us to look beyond. (come to think of it, it's one of the things I appreciated most about the chapel at college, the window looking out on nature ... )
David also spoke about music, and how music and song have always been part of human rites and ceremonies. We connect with music and lyrics that express something of experience, and in the naming, find healing. (connection came up at a few points over the weekend; there seems to be something inherently healing about connecting with each other - when Jesus healed people, it often involved their restoration into community ...) And the healing that happens through music therapy, through any therapy, is as much about the healing nature of the relationship as it is about the music. Connection. 
Visual arts have been part of human experience as long as we've been human: we've been making our marks on rocks to tell our story, who we are, and communicate with each other across the world and ages.
Why do we sing (or engage in any artistic genre)? Art explores our senses, and it is through our senses that we engage with the world and make meaning of that world and our experience. Art expresses feeling and engages the mind in a creative process helping to relieve the pain.

After lunch, the workshop with Jonathon turning us into a choir for our evening performance, and then the evening's concert itself, were the experiential underpinning of the earlier reflections on why we sing. Joy. What other reason do we need? And it's a joy that isn't happiness, because happiness is fleeting, and joy can remain even when we are not happy. Singing expresses who we are, leads us into wholeness, connects us with each other and with the Holy.
What more reason would we need?

Thanks to the Centre for Music, Liturgy and the Arts for a fantastic weekend. Well done team!

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