Stephen Arnold Music

The Most Heard, Least Known Composers In America

“…And all under heaven there is entire repose.”

All of us, by which I mean all people in general, are artists of sorts – we strive to become better at the things we love, whether that be songwriting or parenthood (or both), and we do so with such conviction that we are able to shake off the ever-present naysayers, those agents of cynicism who always manage to be standing on the street corner when we stumble by, whispering in their neighbor’s ear, “Why does he pour so many hours into such things?”

I was half-inspired by a previous post that aimed to divulge the meaning of music. I love music, I write music, I listen to music fervently. But here at Stephen Arnold Music, I do not write our themes for ESPN Outdoors nor for the Weather Channel. In fact, I write none of our themes. I edit them and work to make sure they are published and registered correctly, tagged with appropriate metadata and a dozen other small administrative things that have to be taken care of in order for the music to get from point A (the composer’s head) to point B (the listener’s ear).

But in the hours when I am not at work, music is still essential to who I am. I compose it, arrange it, practice it, perform it, and with time, I have the chance to start the whole cycle over again with something new. I love the whole process, even when I fail at it or spend an evening cursing about it. The previous post was interesting from a psychology perspective, but I wanted to find a source that was more expressive, one that revealed something personal about the power of music.

I stumbled across the following article in Lapham’s Quarterly, a magazine that publishes historical documents on all kinds of subjects. “The Power of Music,” read the title. The date of authorship? Cerca 50 BC in China. Even today, when the relevance of things often comes and goes like so many spring breezes, these words in their timelessness said something intangible about music, something that defied the heightened state of attention-entropy that defines the present day. It’s something that perhaps could not be stated by anything other than such a document, written some two thousand years ago and later, on a fragile, crumbling manuscript, deciphered from the faded ink left on the page.

Below is an excerpt, but the full article is a short, wonderful read, and well worth your time.

“In music the sages found pleasure and saw that it could be used to make the hearts of the people good. Because of the deep influence which it exerts on a man and the change which it produces in manners and customs, the ancient kings appointed it as one of the subjects on instruction.

“In the fine and distinct notes we have an image of heaven, in the ample and grand an image of earth—in their beginning and ending, an image of the four seasons. The lengths of all the different notes have their definite measurements, without any uncertainty. The small and the great complete one another. The end leads on to the beginning, and the beginning to the end.

“Therefore, when the music has full course, the different relations are clearly defined by it; the perceptions of the ears and eyes become sharp and distinct; the action of the blood and physical energies is harmonious and calm; bad influences are removed, and manners changed; and all under heaven there is entire repose.

“Hence we have the saying, “Where there is music there is joy.”’

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