I was at my sister’s house a few weeks ago helping her reconfigure her WiFi settings and troubleshooting her home theater sound system. Tinkering with WiFi is a breeze and I could probably change your WiFi password behind your back, but troubleshooting her sound system took a little more effort. After Googling various search terms (Lifehack tips for improving Google searches, but honestly who uses these unless they’re doing a research paper or something) and reading an essentially useless user’s manual, I put 2 + 2 together in a little bad weather and eventually barreled my way through all of her TV settings to suddenly produce sound from her new speakers. Babam! I think we were listening to some obscure song in her multimillion track iTunes, but I wanted to test audio streaming from her TV.
Queue up the video above. We opened up YouTube and scrolled through the featured videos. We sat there and took in the sounds and sights and my mind began to wander. “What show was this at? Why are they singing that song? Why does it seem so romantic? Why do we make such a big deal about going to see people play music? Why couldn’t we just sit in a room together and do nothing? Oo, it’s Taylor Swift. I guess she is dating Calvin Harris. What is she doing?”
Music makes things sound better. I started to think about this around graduation season when two of my very good friends graduated from college. In all likelihood, this thought process was perpetuated by the new track from Wiz Khalifa, See You Again. For whatever reason, the music laid some sort of framework for me to feel about my friends graduating. It felt a little absurd if only because of the uncanny timing of the song during graduation season. On top of that, it felt a little cheesy because I wondered whether I was actually having feelings about the song or feelings about my friends graduating and moving away.
A few weeks prior to all of this, I re-visited campus to listen to one of my very good friends and mentors share a message about the privilege of God having us join in God’s mission. He shared a passage from 2 Kings 3 in which a king sought a prophet to inquire as to God’s plan for an attack on their enemies. My friend took care to emphasize and clarify verse 15 from this chapter:
But now bring me a harpist.
As Elisha, the prophet whom was inquired, began to speak, the harpist began to play and laid the framework for how the Israelite soldiers should have felt. Music makes things sound better. It doesn’t detract from any authentic message or emotion, but it does enhance it. Or maybe I’m wrong. Is what is Right, Good, True, and Beautiful all the more because of music making it more Right, Good, True, and Beautiful? Or is it an extrinsic factor that enhances a separate aesthetic quality?
I’ll end this with something I wrote as an embarrassingly overconfident and prideful incoming college freshman. In our Introduction to Theology course we were to write a short paper documenting our experience at a religious gathering unfamiliar to us. I attended a local Catholic mass near my home and wrote some regrettably sharp words that culminated, in part, at the conclusion with: “It was particularly the music that caught me, but I took the mass, in light of Catholicism, with a grain of salt; good music makes anything better.”
p.s. The only reason I enjoyed the 2005 rendition of Pride and Prejudice was because of the soundtrack. It was positively sublime.