Monday, February 26, 2007

I have a crush on music!

Yesterday someone accused me of not loving music.

"M___ and I were talking about you, and we think it's so sad that you don't love music."

Apparently this guy and a mutual friend sat around talking about me during the past week, making assumptions behind my back. They were wondering, he asked me... why do I even bother to play? Why did I major in music?

Ouch. Having two people who have heard me perform on numerous occasions accuse me of not loving music hurts. It makes me wonder if they're saying my performances didn't speak to them; if they're claiming my love of music doesn't show through in my playing.

I spent yesterday afternoon thinking a lot about the claims of these two guys. Of course, it's obvious that they're wrong, and that they don't know me very well. I love music like I love breathing - I simply can't imagine my life without it. It's interwoven in all my memories, my thoughts, my happiest and my saddest moments and experiences. It brings me closer to my friends and family, and it envelops the most memorable times in my life.

The reason these two fellows decided I must not love music is because of some statements I made about finding certain pieces boring and frequently finding myself disinterested at some types of recitals or other performances. I'm not afraid to admit it (although perhaps I ought to be, if people are going to judge me accordingly). I do find some music quite boring. I even believe that people can and should make value judgments about music: some music is better than other music. Of course, one person may find a piece charming that another person finds tiresome, but I believe that to some extent it is possible to make black and white statements about music. That said, I also believe that it's perfectly acceptable and normal for individuals to differ on their personal opinions and experiences with specific pieces of music. It's because music is both objective and subjective - objective as an art, I think, and subjective as a language that speaks to individuals.

I wonder about people who assume that if they do not see an expression on your face, a tear in your eye, a catch in your voice, then you must feel no such emotion. How presumptuous.

I would no more share the depth of my love for music with acquaintances than I would declare the personal feelings of love I have for FavoriteBoy. It's personal. Not only that, but I don't believe that a true love of music can be put into words. This is why I found it so odd when this guy challenged me, "Okay, if you say you do love music, then tell me why. Tell me what you love about music." I was truly bewildered. As Victor Hugo said, "Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to remain silent." Mahler put it this way: "If a composer could say what he had to say in words he would not bother trying to say it in music." (I believe the same holds true for all musicians; not only composers.) How then could I express my love for music in words? "I love music because it is beautiful"? In such a statement, it has immediately become trite, cheapened. The only thing I could think to tell this person in response was, "I don't know how to tell you in words why I love music. There aren't words for it; that's why I play."

Music is what our deepest feelings sound like when they don't have words. It lifts our wordless prayers and brings tears to our eyes when nothing else could have moved us to expression. There is a magnificent universality about it: I have my own joys and sorrows, thoughts and feelings, hopes and loves and yearnings, and music speaks to me in all these things. Yet the language of music is all-encompassing. It speaks to these experiences and feelings of mine while simultaneously speaking to those of a million others.

It is easy to profess to be a lover of music. Upon thought, however, I venture to say that anyone who declares that I do not love music because I have discriminating tastes perhaps does not understand the nature of love. I love FavoriteBoy all the more for knowing the ins and outs and quirks that make him FavoriteBoy. I love God the better for reading His Word and seeking to know Him better. I love music by working at it hard, practicing my skill on my instrument, and developing educated and discriminating tastes in music. Anyone who proclaimed love for a person without knowing that person would be thought a fool. Similarly, if I declared myself a passionate lover of Russian literature, a true connoisseur would laugh if he discovered that I have never read Anna Karenina or War and Peace and had no educated opinions on the subject of Russian literature. Knowledge is an integral component of love for anyone or anything.

My love for FavoriteBoy, God, and music is all far from perfected today; it's part of a process of learning them all better. I've come to the conclusion that someone who thinks that love of music is defined by loving all music and never being bored by any music may think himself a great lover of music, while in fact he merely has a crush on music. You know: infatuation, seeing all the perfection and none of the flaws. It's under-developed at best.

I'm still not afraid to admit it. I think Beethoven's 'Tempest' Sonata is a bit dull and repetetive. I'm not thrilled by a restrained performance of Schubert's F minor Fantasie for piano four hands. But I find Beethoven's Violin Concerto sublime, I think Brahms' G Major Sonata for violin and piano is indescribably beautiful, and I doubt you could find a person not moved by the Andante from Bach's A minor solo sonata.

And if two people cannot see or hear my love of music in my playing, well, there are two hundred others who have said they can.

Yes, I love music.


  1. Wow. I can't believe such pathetically superficial people sit around and criticize that which they know nothing about! Next time shove your bow up one of their noses. :)

  2. I don't think you love music either - you don't appreciate Pachelbel's Canon. Obviously you don't love music - give it up.

    Love you Sarah :-D You're a wonderful musician and I'm always proud to tell my friends that you have a degree in violin performance.

  3. Sarah, I can't imagine a more hurtful thing to say to a musician, and I can't imagine the audacity or arrogance of any musician to be able to say that to or about a peer or friend. I watched you pour your life, your heart, your soul, your hours into the practice room, more than anyone else in the department. What would motivate that other than the deepest of affection? Your love of the violin and of music has inspired me to love what I do even more - more freely, more openly, more expressively, and so many times reminds me that music -is- to be enjoyed, to be felt, to be something that brings beauty to our souls from its joys and sorrows and not just what we do because we always have and because it's our habit and because on some level we like it and are good at it. I owe my freedom in expressing my love for music in large part to you. Thanks for sharing your heart here in this beautiful post and always. Thanks for being a woman of grace. Thanks for being a true lover of music.

  4. Sarah,

    Speaking strictly as a music mutt emerging into a music nut, I'm so glad you posted that.

    I've crossed the point when I walk by and hear two people saying "One thing I really like about music..." and they start talking about David Bowie or Tina Turner or something and I'm surprised; I was expecting Bach or Dvorak or, you know, MUSIC.

    You, on the other hand Sarah... your reputation actually precedes you as a lover of music, and now one who can share her love in as concise and evocative a way as music-love can be shared. Quite impressive. I'm so glad you posted that.

    - Charlie

    PS: Pardon the hasty, stone-axe verbiage... I'm on my way to go enjoy some chamber music =)