Friday, December 16, 2005

The sound of music

Continuing with my theme of powerful forces, music is another unappreciated one. We are often unaware as to how powerful and influential music can be. Allow me to illustrate.

We consciously or unconsciously associate music with aspects of our lives, with a particular boyfriend, a sporting event, a tragedy. Sometimes you can hear a song and remember exactly where you were and what you were doing the first time you heard it.

Many couples have "their song", which is a powerful effect and can carry over for many years after they split up. One guy I know chose this as his song for his girlfriend (warning: explicit lyrics and not very nice ones either. Needless to say they are no longer together!).

If we take a minute to stop and examine the words of most contemporary songs, we'd agree that they aren't necessarily the most instructive or appropriate things to have running through your head (running through your head). Do the girls really want to visit Fitty's candyshop? Or Avril going down is perfect to be humming during chazaras hashatz. I'm not advocating Jewish music per se, nor a reductionist isolationist view of the world, rather an awareness of the powers that surround us.

Let's open our eyes and see what influences us, what insiduously works its devilish way into our brain and hearts, affecting our feelings and thoughts. Let's understand the power of the niggun in chassidut, Rebbe Nachman's thought, telling us how music touches our soul and connects us with the upper worlds.



At 12/16/2005 6:47 AM, Blogger FrumGirl said...

Just adding to what you already said: music has the power of taking you way, way up or way, way down to levels of kedusha and tum'aa... This is why I am constantly posting lyrics to songs that have effected me or that I relate to, jewish or not. Not only is it an artistic way of expressing yourself but there certainly is power in music and in the words of the songs. I found that recently many other bloggers are following this trend and posting lyrics...

Isn't it amazing how when you start a favorite song and everyone joins in... like at a kumzitz or shabbos table... how it brings people together? Music is the universal languange of any emotion.

What can I say, music is my passion.

At 12/16/2005 6:53 AM, Blogger MissShona said...

i think more observant Jews should become professional musicians (and the frum community should also lend their support). I really like modern Jewish music but the pickings of quality stuff is slim.

At 12/16/2005 7:29 AM, Blogger Elster said...

Maybe that's because "jewish" music as a whole sacrifices the "music" portion for lyrics.

Yes, TRK, your examples of non-j music and how it can force us to the depths are valid. But what about John Lennon's ballad to his mother Julia? Or McCartny's Mother nature's Son? Or Floyd's homage to summer, Fat Old Sun?

Do these somehow bring us down? Listening to Jimmy Page's solo on Achille's Last Stand actually brings me up.

Something to think about.

At 12/16/2005 7:49 AM, Blogger Masmida said...

An interesting game to play:

We all sing, hum, whistle simething constantly. When you're thinking about something important, listen to what you're singing.

good post.

At 12/16/2005 3:10 PM, Blogger Lvnsm27 said...

TRK, I agree about music having an impact and moving us.
My recommendation is Yosef Karduner. He has beautiful music.

At 12/17/2005 7:57 AM, Blogger Chai18 said...

jewish music really needs to expand i am getting tired of listening to the same song just with different words on every new cd that comes out.

At 12/17/2005 11:07 AM, Blogger Karl said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 12/17/2005 11:20 AM, Blogger Karl said...

This is so true. Music plays a major part in (my) life. Not only what is chosen to listen to, but how the music affects us.
Frequently asked question: What is Jewish music. Its not just the lyrics but the tune itself. Sometimes the lyrics ruin the music. There is a great book (in Hebew and English) on Music and Kabbalah by Matityahu Glazerson. Music is a non-physical (spiritual?) thing and affects us in a non-physical way.
It is often the tune I am humming, rather than the lyrics. Playing your game now Masmida, scary as it is, as I haven't heard it in a while, I am now humming "ועתה, כתבו לכם את-השירה הזאת, ולמדה את-בני-ישראל; תורה הקדושה" by MBD I think.

At 12/17/2005 12:02 PM, Blogger ifyouwillit said...

You read my mind and predicted the post I was going to write, but you have hit the nail on the head. Music is a very powerfool tool, a relaxant as well as something to preserve the past with.

Shavua Tov.

At 12/17/2005 3:16 PM, Blogger Eshet Chayil said...

trk, a gitte voch. I really don't have much to add to your post, but as usual, it was beautifully written.

At 12/17/2005 5:30 PM, Blogger Littleredridinghoodie said...


Great post TRK.

I am a victim of lyrics, I have felt the pain of many artists carried out some to their fantasies, bought into their marketing scams. Even wrote a few songs of my own. Slaves (Fitty’s ancestors) used to sing while they worked so did the 7 dwarfs…

The levites chewed off their thumbs and would not sing with out the Beit Hamikdash, some may argue that today we are so low that we need music to keep us going. I don’t think they meant “fitty cent” I personally can’t wait to be impressed with the real thing.

I must say (I am sorry R' Nachman if we misunderstand each other) I am with Buda on this one, silence is golden. The sound of my breath is the music of my choice. I hope that hear that song for another 90 years.

At 12/17/2005 5:35 PM, Blogger Littleredridinghoodie said...

I think it is in Perek Shirah as well that "silence is golden" I also welcome the sounds of nature.

sorry, if I offended anyone with the Buddha comment it was not my intent.

At 12/17/2005 5:35 PM, Blogger Littleredridinghoodie said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 12/17/2005 5:38 PM, Blogger Lost said...

trk - Sir, you have written about my fav topic. beautiful, beautiful music. i actually wrote a post about a Matisyahu concert i attended and how soulfull and uplifting it was. i got attacked and e/o thought i was going off the derech..but my taste in music is neither here nor there. Music is an incredible tool if utilized correctly. Jonathan Safran Foer has a lovely ditty bout music in his E/T is Illuminated about the reason why our elders hum is becuz music is timeless and there is nothing to 'understand'.. tis a universal language. Personally, the mainstream jewish music on the market doesnt do it for me.. i go more for Moshav, Karduner, (some israeli music for the party types, Kobi Peretz, Idan Raichel), and lately, im goign for college bands.. neone that was @ YU's Battle of the Bands knows theres some serious talent out there..Midnite Remedy a/o? Except Saturday to name a few... both can be found @ email mr. gaisin if you want his music.. hes having a problem with his website..)
.... Kol Chadash.. a/o who went to Netiv Aryeh in the past few years will know them as 'The Brits', decent sfirah music..
Basically, if youre looking for good Jewish music, its out there. if not, Buuuuush! Weezer! U2! ;) Gut Voch all

At 12/17/2005 5:56 PM, Blogger Rebecca said...

it's really true. Music can really change your mood. Often if I had a not-so-good day and I blast a great song in the car it helps me unwind and I tap to the beat.

At 12/18/2005 6:31 AM, Anonymous advice said...

Thanks for all your advice in the former post, but its sad that not much can be done. little red hoodie, I hope you don't let your partner shout at you, those stories from the Gedoilem, are not meant for people to learn from.

At 12/18/2005 6:35 AM, Anonymous advice said...

"When a husband that loves his wife yells at her or their children it is because he loves them" What are you on about? who told you such lies? a husband who loves his wife will try never to shout at her, and will feel bad if he did. Who is feeding you this crap?

At 12/18/2005 7:13 AM, Blogger Eshet Chayil said...

Music can either change your mood, or keep you in a bad one. I can think of more than one occasion where I was sad, and litened to sad music that made me cry. I wonder why people do that. Hashem gave us the creativity to come up with so many different kinds of music that can put us in so many different moods.

At 12/18/2005 7:17 AM, Blogger Masmida said...

advice, please I think we've dragged this topic and blog through enough trama already.
So I am keeping mouth very firmly shut.

At 12/18/2005 7:20 AM, Blogger Masmida said...

There's a perek tehillim for every emotion in the human psyche. So if there's a song, there must be a melody.
and I guess a way of serving hashem with it. One of my favorite things about the world

At 12/18/2005 11:06 AM, Blogger Karl said...

Lost - I've heard Kol Chadash (and know some of them) and they have trully ruined some great songs. I don't think one of them was worth putting on cd. Mainstream Jewish seems to have divesified more in recent years and probably includes alot more stuff. As for being good, well thats debatable.

LRRH - I think its silence is golden when it comes to words, not music. As I said before, its not just music with words but the intagiability of the music (without lyrics) that pervade the soul. Its normally something with a beat that does it for me. Perek Shira is all about singing so I am not sure you have quoted that in context.
Keeping with the theme in the perek; To each his own.

At 12/18/2005 11:23 AM, Blogger David_on_the_Lake said...

Music serves so many's hard to talk about what kind of music works and what doesn't.
Sometimes I'll listen to Mozart as a peaceful background while I read. Other times I'll listen to a Non-Jewish song for the emotional lyrics..just to get tears flowing down my cheeks (something that no modern jewish lyrics has yet to accomplish).
Other times I'll listen to Pavarotti without understanding a word..just to be swept away by the power of his tenor voice.
The most powerful music for me..when i want to be moved is Chazzanus. Nothing combines in it the Jewish experience like Cantorial music does.
But a beautiful melody is a beautiful, be it Irish, Russian, Indian or even hip-hop.
Modern Jewish music is just out of touch and not inspiring, in my opinion.

At 12/18/2005 2:40 PM, Blogger Littleredridinghoodie said...

Thank you TG for the details, I was force fed so much of this stuff, most of it is all mixed up by now. I do believe that when someone yells at you they take all your sins. I have no problem if someone wants to yell at me (they can have them)I have plenty to go around... jk

Does that put me back with Buddah?

At 12/18/2005 10:54 PM, Blogger dietgarage said...

what do these three things have in common?

A Falling of the Berlin Wall
B Musaf service on Yom Kippur
C Any club

... Music

At 12/19/2005 2:46 PM, Blogger cyclamengirl said...

This is my favorite topic too...
What I don't like is that sometimes we don't even have the choice when listening to some kinds of music: Say when you go to a mall,or a store, there is music playing, you hear it without even realizing, your mind "swallows" it, and here you go, after a few weeks you know Candy Shop by heart!Grrrr! At least when I don't want to see something I can turn my vision, but I just fnd it hard to cover my ears every time I am attacked with "musical" pollution!

I recall this quote that some of you might know:"The tongue is the pen of the heart, but melody is the pen of the soul" by Rabbi Schneur Zalman, the founder of Chabad Chasidism.

At 12/20/2005 2:41 PM, Blogger Moochy said...

The foolowing one is the latest that really inspired me:
its from Uisroel Chaim

(its in Hebrew and I am doing the best translation I can)

There are people who dream of overspending and fortune,
There are those who want to become rich in a minute,
But I am a “plain” human, and to life I approached,
Finding myself a warm corner (spot) and in all I asked for,:


If you care, this is a link to what I posted on it.


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