Music and Creativity

ChoirChristmasBostonThis weekend, our sisters’ choir sang the annual beautiful Christmas concerts here at our Boston convent. The sisters sing exquisitely, and many people in the audience (including me) were deeply moved. As people came over to me at the end of the concert to tell me how much they enjoyed it, I was reminded again how powerful music can be in our lives.

In many ways, music is one of the first “media,” as it can be as simple as a rhythm drummed on an upside down bucket or a mother humming a lullaby to a restless infant. For most of us, music is a huge part of our daily lives.

Cell phones, headphones and mp3 players have made music an even more frequent companion for many of us. And music stays with us long after the sound waves are gone: a melody can get under our skin very quickly. I used to love using the word “awesome,” but I can’t use it any more because it triggers The Lego Movie theme song to play in my head just like it does in the movie…over and over!…and then it distracts me for half the day. (The movie Inside Out has a humorous, laugh-out loud reference to the persistence of musical jingles coming to mind.)

The other day I was doing some baking and another sister told me that she enjoyed seeing me when I bake. Since she doesn’t usually eat what I bake, I asked her why. “You hum and sing when you’re in the kitchen, you seem to be enjoying yourself!” she told me.

Music also helps me to be more creative. When I am brewing a cup of coffee, opening my favorite writing program (Scrivener), and trying to take a step back from the hectic details of life so that I can write creatively, I also put on very specific music. (Music has the added benefit of drowning out the occasional distracting noise.) Often, for a large project that spans months or even years, one particular music album—usually a film score—becomes the music for that project, and I’ll play that album over and over again.

And then there’s sacred music. Many of us have favorite hymns that move us to a deeper spirit of prayer and praise.

Whether it’s poignant lyrics, a haunting melody, a catchy rhythm, or a majestic orchestral masterpiece that swells with thematic grandeur, certain music uplifts and touches me deeply. Yet, apart from the album I listen to when I’m writing, I don’t spend much time listening to what I enjoy most. Instead I settle for whatever is convenient or most accessible, or whatever I think others will enjoy. Taking the time to listen to the music that, with its evocative beauty makes me feel closer to God, seems like a wise choice. Perhaps during this Advent and Christmas season, when I find myself listening to more music than usual, I might just take a little time to create a “soundtrack for my life” that inspires and motivates me.

penclipart* What role does music play in your life?   *   What kind of music stimulates your creativity?   *  What does the “soundtrack of your life” sound like?

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