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The Spiritual Aspect of Music

By: John M. Sciullo

What is the spiritual aspect of music?

I remember vividly my two years of lessons with Vladimir Horowitz and how I felt when I first met him. It was as if I was transported onto a movie set of my past memories of seeing him on television, since those films were made at his home on 94th street in Manhattan. And there I was, sitting across from the pianist I had so much admired all my life.

We would have two to three hour lessons and at certain times I was invited to be his guest for dinner before the lesson, which was a rare treat. Our conversations would cover a variety of topics: some were profound and others friendly and comical. We once talked about how some pieces had an overall masculine feeling, while others, like a nocturne or soft piece were more feminine, or passive. There would also be pieces that would not apply to such a generalization, such as the Polonaise-Fantasie of Chopin.

Perhaps the masculine/feminine way of looking at a piece of music is directly related to our emotional nature and how we respond emotionally to music.

Once, when talking about concerts and audiences, he said that a large percentage of the people in his audiences would immediately respond to his brilliant technique, or how he would play the virtuosic, showy pieces. Of that larger percentage, maybe 30%-40% would respond on the emotional level, or to the musicality of his interpretations; the mood or feel of the piece. He would then say that it would be only about 2-5% of the audience that was in tune to what he was doing spiritually. He must have really been aware of his audiences and sensitive to them.

I wonder if the larger group may have still been responding spiritually, but perhaps on a more subconscious level. It would seem that audiences often do have an instinctive knowledge of what a "good" performance is.

It would seem to me that the spiritual nature of music is that music is a reflection, or mirrored image of the something heavenly or not of this world. It exists as an invitation perhaps to another way of living, beyond the everyday concerns that we all seem to get caught up with. Music can take us someplace and take us away from our troubles, but whether we choose to live out lives that way is entirely our choice. The music is a reflection. If it were heaven or the divine itself, then people would surely be transformed once hearing a piece of music, and they rarely are. We usually go back to our basic way of living.

Perhaps we all have an invitation of some sort when we hear music of a spiritual nature, an invitation to another way of living that is there for anyone. I would think that the mirror is in some way inviting us to this way of living, or maybe letting us know that there is more to life than all that we sometimes get caught up in.

Music has always been a very special part of my life and I am thankful for the experiences I have had when sharing my music with people and the feedback they give me. I sometimes wonder if it really does make a difference? But when I do, I will quickly get a reminder from a fan that a piece of mine saved them from depression, or that they love to hear my CD's throughout the day, and that is a beautiful feeling: to know that perhaps it really is making a difference.


Some of John's CD's are offered in Shirley's World


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