What is it about singing that feels like it comes from the core of our minds and
hearts and guts and longings and dreams? What happens to the power of words
when they are shouted or crooned or rapped or “opera'd” or sung together in a
huge group of thousands?
In some mysterious way, song is a force in the world. “We shall overcome” –
mighty words that invoke our obligation to eradicate prejudice and violent acts of
folly. To aspire toward compassionate co-existence. To remember our deepest
wishes for our species’ true potential. Turned into a song, “We Shall Overcome”
became a warm flame that leapt across boundaries of race, generations, and
politics, incited people to join hands and to share acts of immense courage with
peaceful certitude - and to change the laws of a nation…..Sometimes song can
foment revolution. And sometimes, it can be an agent of hatred, emboldening a
people to embrace deluded messages of domination….And Sometimes song
offers impossible comfort in the midst of massive despair. Who has not been
electrified in the past weeks by the videos of courageous Haitians singing and
dancing back their will to survive in the face of overwhelming tragedy.
When the singer at a rock concert compels 10,000 people to sing together as if we
really do have a group mind, we experience a crazy wild joy that we cannot
explain, and would have a really hard time finding any other way - all at once,
all together, unaligned to any reason other than that when we sing as One we
are happy. What happened to our nation at the Closing Ceremonies last month
– and could we have celebrated with as much passion and joy without song?
Perhaps it is an experience of the essence of the truth about our species – that we
are indeed all connected in ways we cannot yet readily access except through the
ephemeral bridges of art.
Humans are all intrinsically artists – it is a primeval fundamental of our beings.
We sing our way through childhood as a way of learning our cultures and our
ABC’s. We moan our way through adolescence in sync with the youth of the
entire globe. As reticent adults we may retreat to the shower or the car, but we
never forget our songs, and they become part of the way we chronicle and share
the history of our losses and loves and lives. In medical and therapeutic
environments song is being found effective in helping stroke victims regain
speech, autistic children connect with the world, and Alzheimers patients
joyously communicate songs from 60 years ago despite encompassing loss of
identity and language. A study even recently demonstrated that for reasons we
have yet to understand, singing to infants in neo-natal intensive care units
allows them to go home sooner.
Songs are us. It is our nature to sing about every condition of being human, the
audible soul of our species on a stunning planet in an unfathomable universe."