I was asked by our local Indie paper, The Shepherd Express, to write an article about the Black String Triage Ensemble, a small group of local Black and Latinx string musicians who play on the site of violence as a “spiritual and emotional medicine for people of color in the aftermath of tragedy.”
The Ensemble is on-call selective weekends during the summer months (string instruments also have difficulty outside during our Wisconsin winters). Their mission is to play at the scene of community violence. Their goals are multifold – “to provide comfort to those immediately impacted by violence, to defuse confrontation, and to promote healing.” They typically play pieces that will help those experiencing tragedy work through the five stages of grief and then a final one to reinforce a faith in a better future. (If you are curious here’s a link to their website.
There’s the oft-quoted line from William Congreve’s 1697 play The Mourning Bride, “Music has charms to soothe a savage breast.” When we listen to music we can find ourselves disappearing into a space that is both smaller and larger than one’s self. In the resulting calm, we can merge with the music and permit the sounds to heal. For a moment we are beyond ourselves – pain is no longer present, is not relevant. We are “in the groove” healing in the out-of-body moments.
In cases of serious illness sometimes the patient is sometimes put into a coma to give the physical body a chance to get stronger. Perhaps we can use music in a similar fashion to give our emotional body the space and distance it needs to heal.
But how often do we take the time to listen to music, to go to a concert or a recital? I don’t think a Rage – the word should be a clue – will work. If we would like to find internal healing – the music should be quiet and just for one’s self – not for external participation. To answer my question — probably not that often. And yet we are worth these moments of quiet, ones that permit us to center and self-heal. And the music is there. We only need to look and listen. There are recordings available online and from the local library.
I find Bach’s cello suites or violin partitas work for me. I found this short deconstruction of a suite which might be fun to view and then listen to a suite with your eyes closed. Or try listening to Bach’s second suite in D minor.
And then there is Glenn Gould’s recording of The Goldberg Variations. But these should be listened to several times until one just floats on the notes that follow inevitably one on the other.
And please share with others the music that you find helpful while remembering to respect that what works for one, may not work for another. But the bottom line is to know that you are worth the time and effort to find your groove and heal and note at a time.
Ken was a Professor of Mathematics, a ceramicist, a welder, and an IBMer until downsized in 2000. He taught yoga until COVID-19 decided otherwise. He continues writing, living with his wife and beagle in Shorewood, Wisconsin. He enjoys chamber music and mysteries. He’s a homebrewer and runs whitewater rivers. Ken is a writer and his literary works can be found at https://www.kmkbooks.com/
He welcomes feedback on his articles and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.