Music is powerful. It can be used for healing, entertaining, and inspiring. It is often used in both communal worship and private prayer. Music has the power to reduce stress, to provide just the right ambience in a room, or to motivate an entire stadium full of people. Music also has the ability to reach into the deepest recesses of our brain and tap into memories from long ago.
I’ve always loved music, probably because my father was passionate about music. He had an amazing singing voice, and, as a young child, had professional voice training. By the time he graduated from high school, he had made several recordings. He encouraged my siblings and me to sing at an early age, too. I was probably in about sixth grade when my parents invested in a stereo sound system for our home. We enjoyed listening to the soft sounds of KPEN-San Francisco throughout much of my childhood.
This morning, I was listening to music on Pandora Radio -- the Norah Jones station. Those familiar with Pandora know that when a particular artist is selected, music by that artist and similar artists is played. I enjoy the diversity of musicians featured on this station. One artist highlighted on the Norah Jones station is the Irish singer Enya. As I was getting dressed this morning, Enya’s song Only Time came on. While I like the song very much, the images that come to mind each time I hear this song are disconcerting.
Not long after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, someone put together a lengthy slide show displaying dozens of horrific images from that memorable day. The video included the soundtrack of Only Time by Enya, which she had first introduced just a year earlier. The song played over and over as more and more images of that unforgettable day transitioned onto my computer screen. It was distressing, to say the least. Since that time, whenever I hear Only Time, those images replay in my mind. I don’t want them to, but I’m powerless to stop them.
That’s the power of music. Just as some songs bring back wonderful memories of people, experiences, or places I’ve visited in my past, this particular song bombards my mind with those gruesome images of the terrorist attacks. I have the option to “dislike” Enya’s song and Pandora will permanently delete it from my playlist, but I don’t want to do this. I like the song. I also think there is some value in reflecting back on that dreadful day in American history with a tremendous sense of gratitude for those who risked their lives, and in some cases sacrificed their lives, attempting to rescue those in harm’s way.
I’m grateful that the memories generated by most songs I hear are pleasurable. What a blessing it is to relive some of those wonderful experiences through the power of music.
“Music is therapy. Music moves people.
It connects people in ways that no other medium can.
It pulls heart strings. It acts as medicine.”