What is Music? Part I
“If a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one there to hear it, does it make a sound”
A long time ago, a musician friend of mine reopened in my mind this age-old debate.
For years, the scientist in me said, “The tree crashes to the ground, and the impact creates sound waves. The fact that there’s no one there to listen, doesn’t change the fact that the waves are there. Duh…”
And that simple fact made me think that the whole line of questioning was just pretty silly.
Then this friend of mine pointed out something that changed my mind. “Yeah, but is that ‘sound’? When the waves are created, they’re really just fluctuations in air pressure traveling through the atmosphere. It’s not until it hits someone’s ear and gets interpreted into something the brain can use that it becomes a sound.”
That hit me and spun me around. Because…
It introduced to me the concept of the audience. It made me rephrase the question to this: “If a singer sings in the woods, and there’s no one there to hear it, is it music?”
Or, if I write a song, and sing out my soul, but there’s no one listening, what’s the point?
Now, this one’s not as clear-cut as the first version of the question. Because, in this variation, there IS a built-in audience, and that’s the singer his/herself. I have written many songs over the years that are not intended for a larger audience. Not intended for anyone but me. I’ve also written lots of songs that I want to get to a large audience.
The point is, I guess that they both have value.
I think of two scriptures, both in the D&C:
First, in section 18, verse 15 – “And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!”
And the other is in Section 4, verse 4: “For behold the field is white already to harvest; and lo, he that thrusteth in his sickle with his might, the same layeth up in store that he perisheth not, but bringeth salvation to his soul;”
So, what if I labor all my days, singing the songs that the Lord has inspired, and the only person that it helps is me? Hasn’t it still been worthwhile?
But then, back in Section 18: “And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!”
I wrote a song about that one, about how I want to help the world, but if I end up only helping myself, that’s still OK with me.
Waking the Dead
Words and music by Mark Hansen
9/4/2002 10:41 PM
The cloth is tight around me
My eyes can only stare
Coldness hugs my lifeless limbs
Heavy spices fill the air
I feel only emptiness
A loss I can’t even mourn
And then I hear His blessed voice
Call to me “Come forth!”
Life swells up inside me
And I stumble into the light
I feel His warmth run through my veins
Filling me with right
And I don’t understand why
It was me He chose to serve
Filling me with happiness
That I really don’t deserve
The music that’s inside my heart
Leaps into my throat
I want to sing it out to you
I’m ready to explode
I want to sing a song to wake the dead
A song to make the lame take up their beds
I want to sing so that the blind can see
Even if the blind one is me
Even if the dead one is me
My sins are like the open sores
That boil up on my skin
The righteous throw their stones at me
And shout “Outcast! Unclean!”
But one man comes and takes my hand
And brings me to the fold
He heals the sickness in my heart
And cleans my cankered soul
I was lost but now am found
Was blind but now I see
I wish to give to everyone
The sight He gave to me