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The Matter of Music


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The following is a column from Kathy Nolan Deschenes. To submit your own column, e-mail the editor at andrewsylvia@westfordtemplate.com

Did you ever get into a what-if discussion with friends about which sense you’d prefer to lose if you had to lose either your sight or your hearing? Everyone I’ve ever discussed that with always say that they’d rather lose their hearing. When I ask why, they say that if you lose your sight, you lose your independence and that’s the worst of all losses.

I have always said that I would not want to live if I lost my hearing. Let me tell you why.

Kathy Nolan Deschenes (courtesy photo)
Kathy Nolan Deschenes (courtesy photo)

One of the greatest gifts of being human is being moved by music. In the world of quantum physics, string theorists propose that at the heart of every particle  are “strings” of matter that vibrate constantly. These vibrations create a cosmic symphony and could explain why music is so central to the human existence. We are each a walking symphony of matter.

There are as many anti-string theorists as string theorists. Einstein was one of the “anti” crowd. Einstein believed that everything could be measured. String theorists, however, have never been able to find a mathematical equation to explain and predict string behavior.

Now, you can say that because Einstein’s theory of relativity proved Newton’s long-held theory of gravity wrong, the evolution of physics is such that Einstein’s theories could, at the very least, be enhanced by new theories.

I am not a physicist and would never claim to know enough about the subject to prove any theory wrong. But as my favorite science teacher told me when I was in high school, science starts as individual experience.

In 55 years, I have yet to meet a person who is not affected by some type of music. Oftentimes, when discussing music with others there is an emotional piece to the discussion. How music makes us feel is very primal. We are drawn to different types of music because of internal buttons that are pushed. No one can explain that feeling precisely but at a higher level we might use terms like inspired, joyous, agitated, “pumped up”, and sad.

Music sooths the dying, helps us celebrate moments like weddings and birthdays, leads us into battle both literally and figuratively, gets under our skin if its key is not in synch with our idea of harmony. Think of all the times that music has changed your mood, or your resolve, or your life.

Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast, according to Shakespeare. And words of love and encouragement can be music to our ears. How many times have you been out with friends (or even home alone) and heard a song that made you get up off your feet and dance around? Has a book or a painting ever had that effect on you? Probably not.

I don’t know if string theory will ever be proven in my lifetime. Maybe if we get a fast enough or big enough particle accelerator it will. But, regardless, even if string theory doesn’t prove why music is such an integral part of our being, I’d still never want to lose it in my life.

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