Oberlin Blogs

Music Matters

December 22, 2009

Marsha Lynn Bragg

The fall semester at Oberlin is over and it could not be more evident than with the silence that seems to pervade campus.

I am referring to the silence of musical instruments not being played or songs not being sung. With winter shutdown (aka winter break) soon upon us, the sounds of music have come to a standstill.

Well. Not entirely. Let me qualify: the sound of music heard at Oberlin by way of the faculty, students, professionals, and others who perform in campus venues in concerts, recitals, master classes, lunchtime jazz sets, and the like several times a week throughout each semester. The number of concerts and recitals tops 500 per year.

So with that much music-making taking place in one 440-acre spot, when a semester ends, the silence roars.

The absence of music makes me realize the role music plays in my life. I am no musical aficionado or expert of any musical genre. I just know what I like, what causes me to tap my feet, sway my hips, snap my fingers, and bob my head. When I attend concerts or even a worship service, I often pan the crowd to see how many people are sitting still, seemingly glued to their seat at rapt attention. Not me.

I cannot imagine my life without music of some sort. I'd be lying if I said I enjoy all kinds of music, but it is accurate to say that I value music in all its varied forms, vocal and instrumental. Music inspires, comforts, uplifts and lulls, energizes, mesmerizes, and even empowers me. I marvel to the point of respectful envy of those singers and musicians whose work transcends the artificial and arbitrary barriers we put up that keep us from developing mutual understanding and respect for our varied cultures and ethnicities.

Just to show you how rich music is at Oberlin, the college admissions office recently commissioned a poster project featuring pictures taken by senior cinema studies major Ma'ayan Plaut. She chronicled her life at Oberlin by taking a photo each day for a year. Stunning shots. And many of them center on some form of musical activity--a rehearsal, a play, an opera theater show, a jazz jam session...

Not sure if the music theme was deliberate because it speaks to her own interests, or random, in that it simply points to the abundance of music found here. Maybe both.

There is something to be said for quiet, for silence. But there is something to be said for the rhythms of life that sprinkle my days with various sounds, both natural and manufactured.

While I welcome the quiet yet accelerated pace of getting work done that winter shutdown brings. I also look forward to the sounds of a campus come alive with music.

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