An orchestra played in my bedroom this morning, and the music was beautiful. Amazing! And even more amazing is the fact that presumably all of the musicians are dead.
Technology has indeed given us something special in recorded music, and the little iPod that laid on the bed beside me has moved that “miracle” to an extraordinarily portable container.
I was listening to the Boston Symphony Orchestra, conducted by the late Charles Munch. The compilation, titled “The French Touch,” was part of RCA Victor’s Living Stereo series and was recorded in 1957, 1958, and 1962. I remember first encountering the Living Stereo series when an uncle had a recording on reel-to-reel tape. I suspect this series was also on regular 33 rpm record albums. I eventually came to own this recording on CD, but it’s now also available in Super Audio CD. Yet, for ease of listening, I most often hear it through my iPod.
So I can now carry a full orchestra and dead musicians with me wherever I want to go. It’s so easy to take this for granted, but this morning I was not. I found myself being appreciative of the composers, musicians, conductor, recording technicians, electronic inventors, and recording company who made my pleasure possible while I sat in a house in the middle of an East Texas hay meadow.
My great-grandfather, who bought the land I now live on, may never have heard an orchestra in his life. And he would not have heard much simpler music, except at church. The world has changed. Music has become a part of our everyday life. Some of it is degrading, demeaning, and downright evil, but much of it is beautiful and helps the spirit to soar.
I thought of these things this morning because of something I read last night. Timothy Keller, in his book Generous Justice, was talking about beauty and justice. It seemed an odd combination to me, but the point was interesting.
“It takes an experience of beauty to knock us out of our self-centeredness and induce us to become just,” Keller writes.
Surely, this morning, the beauty of the music knocked me out of my own self-centeredness and made me appreciate people who never knew me and things I had no part in creating. And getting outside oneself is a key to living a good life, not to mention a just one.
Keller’s basic point, however, goes far beyond the beauty of music; it goes to the beauty of God, who loves us enough to send His only son to live and to die and to live again for us. That, indeed, is a divine beauty. It brings us to worship, and that makes us see that justice is good and right and must be pursued.
Jesus “stood in the place of all those of us in spiritual poverty and bankruptcy (Matthew 5:3) and paid our debt,” Keller says. “Now that is a thing of beauty. To take that into the center of your life and heart will make you one of the just.” (p.188)