Throughout the ages, people from all cultures have struggled to understand and express the power and beauty of music and explain the magical quality of sound. Although a sheet of music is visible, as is the instrument on which it is played, music itself is invisible, mysterious. There is no satisfactory definition of it; every culture draws the borderlines of sonic events in different places. But everyone agrees that music affects us, moves us, inspires us, and transforms us as human beings.
Music is a miracle, transforming consciousness, taking the mind and spirit to places unknown. Using the energy of music to shape that invisible place we call the soul seems appropriate somehow. This dance occurs in a place outside our everyday consciousness, yet it has access to it as well. Good and evil, love and hate, war and peace, are all fair game in this domain. Al the emotions are courted, and nothing is too weird for the muse. When I think of “spirit into sound,” I realize this is what music all about. How do we turn spirit, which is a feeling, into a reality and energy that we can harness and use? Transmutation. Take ideas and the feelings that we have, and turn them into sound. This is the great work, this the philosopher’s stone, this is the alchemy of life. Music is the gold of the sound shaper.
Music is not a museum of old ideas, but rather a living, interactive guide to the future. The power of music is still young, its energy only partly realized. We’re continuing to learn to use this gift, to penetrate its mystery, and ultimately to share this knowledge with everyone.
– Mickey Hart, from the introduction of “Spirit into Sound: The Magic of Music”
One of the most powerful insights afforded by research in ethnomusicology, most clearly articulated by John Blacking, is that music is inseparable from our humanity. Music fills needs at the center of our being, needs not met by other arts or activities, scared or secular. No human society, present or past, has lacked music. Music is therefore one of the very few human universals, which puts it on the same level as food and sex.
It follows that any tendency to consider music a “luxury” is dangerous. This patently false idea leads to devaluing music in general education, often to the point of eliminating it entirely when budgets are tight. That Plato, Confucius, and many other great thinkers have held music to be the indispensable cornerstone of education should help strengthen the resolve of parents and educators to make music part of every home and to maintain and strengthen music programs in our schools.
– Fredric Lieberman, from the preface of “Spirit into Sound: The Magic of Music”