Thursday, February 13, 2014

Monastic Song and Sacred Music of All Sorts

Driving to work on Tuesday, I heard this wonderful interview with the Abbess of the group of nuns who have released an album of music for Lent.  They're the same group who released a CD of Advent music, and that CD bumped the Fifty Shades of Grey CD off the #1 place on the charts (go here for more on that story).

I'm thinking about getting both CDs.  I may need them in my new office.  I felt immediately calm when I heard the clips.  I thought about turning my office into a bit of a sanctuary with this music.

I also loved the approach that the Abbess takes to it all.  They're using the profits from the CD to pay their debts.  Very few of the sisters even know how popular the CDs are, and if they did, the Abbess says that they wouldn't care.  It doesn't change their purpose.

I was also impressed by how beautifully the nuns sang.  They're not professional singers and not classically trained in the way we think about it.  But they do sing together multiple times a day.  That amount of practice shows in their singing.

Or maybe it's that they're singing together.  I came across this wonderful blog post after Pete Seeger died.  Linda Holmes offers this intriguing theory: "Pete Seeger understood something fundamental about humans and music, which is that many people can't sing on key, but all crowds can. Even without rehearsal, public choirs can be stunning to listen to and thrilling to be part of. And he believed that everyone should do it, that people should retain the ability to get in a room and sing, because it was good for you, and because it taught people to pitch in and be brave."

I have noticed something similar.  In a group, a person slightly off key won't be heard--or it will sound intentional and interesting.  When we're singing together, we all improve.  That's been my experience, whether I'm singing in church, singing at folk music events, or singing in other settings.

Could it be true if I sang along with a CD?  Or is it something about the voices swirling around me?

I am interested in the idea of music that creates sacred space.  Let me record that idea before I forget.  Can music provide a portable sacred space?

Today I will wish that I had some sacred space to take along with me.  It's moving day, and then there's a meeting about class cancellations that's bound to be contentious, and then if I'm done with that meeting in time, it's the English Composition Class Redesign web-based meeting, and then I'll go to spin class, and then I'll collapse in a heap.

No comments: