Long Before There Was Music, There Were Notes

The other night, I attended an “evening of creation” designed to help us access our “practical spirituality.” One of the presenters, Jonathan, played music for us on a handpan drum. I wasn’t familiar with the instrument, and the sound was ethereal and relaxing. Jonathan was one of those splendid individuals who manage to come across as calm, insightful, and full of mirth all at the same time.

In talking about his “technique” for playing and composing, Jonathan said he just “feels the music and allows it to come through.” He reminded us, “the things that go into the creation of all music – 12 established notes, recognized chords, etc. – all existed before anyone ever ‘thought’ of them or played them or wrote them down.”

It’s not the first time I’ve been introduced to that concept, but it grabs my heart every time I hear it. For centuries, artists of all kinds have tried to explain the process of creation. Many of us have spent hours marveling at or longing for the experience of “flow.” Most of us have had an idea or image come to us in a dream, or received a “sign” offering us creative direction. We’ve been continuously delighted when two of us get the same idea at the same time, or when a collaboration transcends to a uniting of souls, and we start moving or singing or writing in unison.

We like to call it “magic” when we experience something divine in the arts. When we, the audience or the artist, start to cry and we’re not sure why. When the art moves our bodies to dance or makes us jump up and down with excitement. When the art “speaks” to us and suddenly we know what it is we’re supposed to do about that problem we’ve been struggling with, or that thing we can’t let go of, or that person we just realized we love after all.

If art existed long before we did, then it exists for us, but not just for us. As Jonathan and some of the other people pointed out that evening, art can be seen and heard in nature, in wildlife, in light and darkness, in the rush of air. Art is nature’s breath.

It’s no wonder artists throughout time have offered up their work to whatever gods or spirits or muses they believed in. How else could they explain something that is in you and outside of you and before and after you all at once? Yes, we make the art – the artist and the recipient. But it comes through us and moves out into the world where it inspires someone else to create their own art. And in that way, it continues on, never ending, always a mystery, always divine, always of us and beyond us, defying understanding at the same time it makes perfect sense. Magic.

If you like this post, please share and credit Teresa and Bursts of Brilliance for a Creative Life blog