Reflections on Art and Life
I sit in the first row in my Musicology class so I don’t get distracted by other students and can better absorb the lecture. In close proximity to my left sits a girl who is majoring in theater studies. I spoke to her briefly couple of weeks ago. Our conversation was awkward and hurried. I didn’t quite know how to communicate with her. I spoke slowly and she was able to read my lips. She is completely deaf.
The University provides her with two interpreters. Both women sit up front opposite her and translate every single word spoken by the professor. When the music is played in class the interpreters do not stop working. They motion with their hands to convey the character of the music to the student. They close their eyes and sway their arms and upper bodies to the rhythm of the music. It’s not quite like conducting. They make up their own gestures. They are unabashed and unashamed.
The Kyrie from Palestrina’s Pope Marcellus Mass gently fills the auditorium. It pours down like mist, enfolds us and begins to flow up and down, it swirls all around and raptures everything in its path into its sweeping, holy, intoxicating harmony.
But the girl does not hear it. Music is an abstract word in her vocabulary, perhaps associated with vibrations she can feel through her body. She observes as the interpreter motions with her arms up in the air to the tune of complete silence.
I am humbled by this scene. You and I and millions of other people take this gift for granted. The air molecules travel in organized patterns reaching tiny hairs inside of our ears, and those in turn send electrical signals to our brains. The brain then translates electrical impulses into the language spoken by the soul. (I’m afraid this last step has not been documented).
What a mind boggling intangible reality. What an Extravagant, Flamboyant and Impractical Creator who came up with this phenomenon. Spoken language is one thing. It is purely utilitarian (unless used for poetry), but this “music” is absolutely excessive and unjustified. Likewise, it would have been much more sensible to live in a black and white world. Other colors are really not necessary. Why this excess?
So I meditate on all these things as I walk out of the Music building. The weather is perfect, the sky is pure and clear blue. I am happy to be alive, happy to breathe, to see, to think, to be, and to hear.
©2006 Dosia McKay