Most of us have been to hear live music — of any sort — in which the performers are entering the atmosphere of the music, creating that grounded sense of space and place that is always there between and around us.
Making music reminds us of its presence, helps us re-enter it, re-sync with it.
Last night I heard an Irish band from Philadelphia, the John Byrne Band, perform in my town. They played an acoustic set, a mix of original songs and traditional reels and Irish folk songs. They visit our town annually because a former band member followed his wife to a job in Macomb. So there was an intimate community atmosphere to the performance and to the banter between songs. And the players blended well together—able to be subtle when a beat or a drone rather than volume was needed of them.
I’ve felt this often at live musical events, and also while playing the piano or harpsichord alone or with others. I recall how even during a hard long season during college, after practicing the harpsichord (to which I amazingly had access then), I could feel more connected to the ground with each step, as if walking in tempo with God.
When I sat on my porch this morning to do lectio, I realized that a sense of flow from last night’s concert was still there in me—triggering swiftly that kindred sense of flow in prayer, the awareness that God is right here right now, underneath the surface of things, as vivid and ineffable as the sound of a note, but abiding across every note of our lives.
As Augustine put it in his Confessions, in F. J. Sheed’s translation, and with Augustine’s usual emphasis on our (or his own) tendency to feel defiled and impure: “And behold Thou art close at hand to deliver us from the wretchedness of error and establish us in Thy way, and console us with Thy word: ‘Run, I shall bear you up and bring you and carry you to the end.’”
A former student noticed the juxtaposition of being carried even as we are running: fully acting on our own created powers, yet sustained and moved along by God at each moment as well. Music and art, as well as prayer, can awaken us to this sense of flow that is in and with God and one another.