|[courtesy of Helmut Kraus]|
Music is a lot more than a melodious string of notes. At its best, it has the power to transport us, to rekindle memories, to uplift us, and to fill our souls. It can connect us to other people and to special moments in time, and can often communicate feelings far better than words alone. As I'm about to show you, music also has the power to transform lives.
Some of you may remember the post I wrote a couple years ago about a remarkable group of young musicians, which originally ran with the title The Sounds of Hope. For those of you who missed it the first time around, or simply don't remember it, I'm gonna run the original post again in its entirety. Then I'll give y'all a brief update about this group, and will share a new video that shows, once again, just how amazing the powers of music can be. (For those of you who do remember it from the last time around, feel free to say blah, blah, blah as you skip down to the update.)
Thought for the day: Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. [Plato]
|You're never too old ... or too young... to enjoy music.|
The enjoyment of music respects no boundaries; it's pretty much universal. No age limit, either. Even newborn infants respond to music, and most of us continue to respond to it until we draw our very last breath.
Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without. [Confucius]
It can be uplifting, rousing, soothing, sublime, or profane, and has the uncanny ability to reach inside our hearts to touch us on a primal level. As Leo Tolstoy said, Music is the shorthand of emotion.
Remember the song My Way? Written by Paul Anka, and originally performed by Frank Sinatra, it was an okay song. Not the best, not the worst, but in the hands of violinist Andre Rieu, this ordinary tune becomes sublime:
No doubt, Mr. Rieu is a talented musician who makes magnificent sounds come out of that priceless instrument of his. My guess is he came from a comfortable background and benefited from a good education. Maybe a private tutor and top-notch music teachers. Perhaps not, but that's my guess.
The question is: How can a child who's mired in abject poverty make music? Time for a story...
Just outside Ascuncion, Paraguay's capital city, lies one of the largest landfills in Latin America. That's also where 25,000 people live in the slum city of Cateura. Day after day, tons of garbage get added to the landfill, and day after day, the men, women, and children of Cateura traverse mountains of garbage, and sift through it for whatever they can salvage. For that is the story of their survival: they eke out a living by recycling garbage from that landfill.
And yet... and yet... orchestral music is alive and well in the slum of Cateura. In the midst of crippling poverty, there are instruments for the children to play... instruments fashioned from salvaged garbage. Empty oil drums become cellos and violins; water pipes and spoons become flutes; packing crates become guitars; and bottle caps, buttons, and spoons turn a pipe into a clarinet. Garbage is transformed into instruments of hope.
Play the music, not the instrument. [unknown origin]
Care to witness a musical miracle?
Pretty amazing, huh? Favio Chavez, director of Cateura's Landfill Harmonic Orchestra, said, The world sends us garbage. We send back music. And tell ya what, when those youngsters play My Way, the song gains new meaning. Their way, indeed...
Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life. [Berthold Auerbach]
Music is moonlight in the gloomy side of life. [Jean Paul Richter]
Music in the soul can be heard by the universe. [Lao Tzu]
The whole universe may not hear their music, but thanks to donations from all over the world, these children of hope will be the subject of a documentary next year. They'll also be touring the United States... and playing their unique instruments that were built with garbage, hope, and a lot of love.
Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world. [Martin Luther]
[Images courtesy of morguefile]
UPDATE: In March, a 84-minute documentary feature film about this amazing group premiered in Austin, Texas, and since then, it has been shown at many film festivals, and has racked up many awards. Would you like to see a trailer?
This group even has a Facebook page now, in which you can keep track of them, and see where the film will be showing next... and where they're scheduled to be playing next. For the past two years, they've had the honor of playing with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra... and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra had the privilege of playing with them. In July, these students played for the Pope.
I'd say music has made a profound difference in their lives, wouldn't you?
And here's the video that prompted me to write this post. Naomi Feil, the founder of Validation Therapy, is trying to communicate with Gladys Wilson, an Alzheimer's patient, who has been virtually non-verbal for the past fifteen years. The focus of Ms. Feil's form of therapy is on what she calls a reciprocated communication of trust. She says it is often possible to communicate with people suffering from cognitive impairments and dementia to a much deeper degree and emotional level than once thought possible. See what happens when she, a Jew, communicates with her patient by singing songs that were once dear to Ms. Wilson's heart. By singing Christian songs...
May we all be blessed with a friend who knows the song in our hearts, and can sing it back to us if we forget the words.
You don't have to know how to carry a tune to make a joyful noise.
Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.