Some of the Greatest names in story telling are actually writers of music – The two Bernsteins (Elmer and Leonard), John Williams (Living Legend), Howard Shore, Michael Giacchino, Danny Elfman, my stories would be so much emptier without these men and their music. And the music alone has the power to evoke the story itself, to arouse the very emotions you had in that theatre, somewhere completely different. I can hear strains of Shore and be right there in Middle Earth, I hear a snippet of Williams and I’m with Luke on Tattooine.
Music is an integral part of storytelling – music in itself can be a story. Even if you’re simply telling a story by word of mouth, if you use rhythm, repetition and add musical cadence, the story suddenly takes on a new aspect and becomes more memorable – more repeatable. (More on repetition next time).
But it’s not just in story that Music has power, it’s in our everyday lives and communities. It has power to heal, to unite, to comfort. We can communicate things through music and song that we often cannot bring ourselves to say with just words. There are feelings and thoughts inside us that are so powerful, they can only be expressed through music. There’s a facebook page one of my friends likes called “when words fail, music speaks” and that really is true.
Joss Whedon knew this when he devised “Once More with Feeling” – a brilliant episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer where the characters were visited by a demon who cursed the town to reveal their innermost fears and feelings through song. There were issues in Buffy’s life that wouldn’t have been expressed without music. If you haven’t seen the episode, you really should – it’s almost a standalone and the music is fantastic!
An understated study in the Power of music is the relatively recent “Song for Marion”. It’s heartwarming, it’s sad, it’s powerful. The Marion in question is a member of a choir that is composed largely of older people. She is also terminally ill. But she doesn’t lie down and wait, she doesn’t leave her choir community, there is even an occasion where she chooses the community of her fellow singers over her husband (she refuses to speak to him until he promises to take him to choir – it’s childlike, it’s childish, it’s strength of character and shows how powerful the music is in her life.)
Of course he relents – having someone you love not speaking to you is probably one of the most painful experiences you can endure – personally I’d rather someone shout and punch and say they hate me than have stoney silence. Indifference is a powerful weapon and one that is the epitome of “not-love”. Hmm, that was a wee tangent…..
What speaks to me as I experience the story laid out before me in Song for Marion is that of a family who both love and hate each other – who use the weapons of “not-love” to hurt those they love because it somehow helps their own pain – but there comes a time when it’s re-connect or die inside. It’s engage with the music or lose yourself. It’s embrace the music to repair yourself ,and your relationships. And in the end, although Marion dies (yes, predictable, but it turns out the story isn’t about her, it’s about the family and community she leaves behind) and the family goes through darkness – they come together and it’s the music that helps heal and brings forgiveness and forges community.
Oh yes, Music is Powerful stuff.