The restorative power of music

Here’s a very moving video recording using a “virtual studio”–laptop-based recording.  It seems to me that there something fundamentally restorative about it: a circle of voices, circling the globe, united in lyrics that we are all familiar with: “Stand by me.” The song has a prayerful quality. I think about the song circle that I wrote about several posts back, where the kindergarten girl proposed that we use our circle time to sing to each other. And in our circle keeper’s group last Wednesday one of the member spoke about the difficulty and joy and immediacy and vulnerability of expressing oneself through spontaneous song.  When we do, we are restored to ourselves, and to our community. In my churchgoing days I was never a big fan of hymns; I felt incompetent as a singer and disconnected from the general style of music. But I see the sense in uniting our voices in song. Stand by me is a hymn for the whole world, beautifully performed here by street musicians. Tell me: do you see the restorative nature of this? How so?

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2 Responses

  1. Music and art have tremendous restorative power because they can bypass the linear, rational mind and get straight to the heart of things. I used to lead a music class at a women’s shelter in Los Angeles where I had the women make up songs together about their experiences and sing popular songs they knew and loved. Usually we’d all end up in tears or laughing, but always feeling refreshed because we were able to communicate our stories without having to justify or explain them in a logical fashion. Live music, particularly when there is improvisation, can make huge changes in the unspoken dynamics of a group. There is great potential for using it in situations of conflict (which has already been tapped in many cultures). Having worked as both an artist and an attorney/mediator I can say that I’ve seen much more potential for transforming conflict and patterns of behavior when art is involved than when the standard models of conflict resolution are engaged. I believe this is because those standard models rely mostly on talking or writing as the only mode of communication, and in the form of linear “rational” idea-forms, which cannot address the whole content of the conflict. One step further into a creative method would be using poetry and storytelling as less linear forms of oral/written communication. Methods that incorporate creativity, however, immediately add an element of unpredictability, and are not easily categorized, studied, or molded into structures that can be recreated or outcomes that can be “guaranteed” in some predictive model. That requires a trust in the overall process that frightens some people: for example, the facilitators who want to be sure of their outcome (and sure that they personally are making something happen) or the clients who want a satisfaction guarantee that someone else (the facilitator) is going to “fix” their problem for them. Taken even further, it also threatens the need for specialists–if a community can get together and make music and art and tell stories to transform conflict, who needs lawyers or mediators to come in and “help” them navigate an externalized conflict resolution system? These are part of the reasons for resistance to more creative solutions, and call for a deeper examination of the belief systems that underlie our structures. I would love to see us as attorneys/mediators put ourselves out of business by teaching people to take back their own power to resolve conflict by using creativity. Imagine if we had “firms” full of artists instead of attorneys and as a society gave the artists the commensurate respect and value, and imagine those artists working within communities to connect people and transform conflict!

  2. I loved this video the first time I saw it and have been a huge fan of Playing For Change since. I never associated Circles with this before but you are absolutely right!!! Music can make a powerful circle.

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