Sunday, June 26, 2016

Bringing Music Home

Once upon a time, the home used to be the center of productivity. Weavers, bakers, farmers: they all worked from home, or their work space occupied the downstairs while their private rooms remained on the floor above. Today, most of us leave our homes to be productive elsewhere, returning after an 8-hour work day to relax - even possibly escape from - the work environment. 

As a musician, though, I work from home - a lot. Our living room functions as practice room, teaching studio, rehearsal space, recording studio, and a family living room. Despite the apparent challenges in living in such a multi-purposed room, I've experienced something quite unexpected: the gift of live music making in our home every day - and I love it!

Most people I know listen to recordings of music at home. Live music is for concert halls and singing is reserved mainly for football or baseball games, or worship services if you're religious. And this got me to thinking: do we lose something more than live music making when we stop making music together in community? Or put in another way: what may be gained by bringing music home?

Obviously I'm biased. But I would like to think that if I had a different job I would still want to make music at home. Here are some reasons why:

1) Making music is showing hospitality:

In the cherry blossom's shade
there's no such thing
as a stranger.

In this haiku by Kobayashi Issa, the beauty of the cherry tree (as well as the shade it provides) brings people together in awe, in gratitude, and in celebration: strangers become friends. In a world where we thirst for more meaningful interactions with others, live music making in one's home is another powerful gift that brings diverse people together with a common interest.

2) Making music provides us with new motivation as well as stability.

There's a lot of clutter in our culture: different voices clamor for attention. Music - especially music from another time and culture - can create peace and order in an over-stimulated environment. J. S. Bach's music, for example, allows me to retreat from this world into a quieter, refreshing space. 

Conversely, music can also challenge us not to remain complacent with the way things are. Much of western classical music was composed during morally, politically, and socially turbulent times. Composers wrote their music with the hope that it would change the way people thought, behaved, and responded to current social issues.

3) Making music: making community

Making music is oftentimes an outward-facing activity: it draws attention away from oneself while simultaneously inviting one to participate in something greater. 

What would bringing music into one's home look like? This might be a good time to pick up an instrument, to learn something new, to continue one's education. Or if several attempts to learn end in frustration, there are other ways of bringing music home too: the house concert is growing in popularity among music lovers. 

Could the act of live music transform the home as a result? Imagine a society where homes brought diverse people together in gratitude and celebration. Picture a culture where the home was a peaceful environment, as well as a place where hearts and minds could be shaped to respond in more compassionate and wise ways. It's true that music can't perform a liver transplant or stabilize currency. But making music can enrich life and build up community, and provide continuity between our contemporary existence and a way of life from past eras. Will you join me in bringing music home?

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