"Medicine for the Soul"
Music has long been termed “medicine for the soul,” as it serves as an outlet to sincerely express thoughts and feelings. Music has even been acknowledged as a universal language as it transcends time and boundaries between people and countries. As the stress of quarantine continues, many have turned to classical music, in private solace or in public live streams, like that of renowned Johann Sebastian Bach. But what makes this composer so special?
The world has nearly stopped in time as we are forced to stay in isolation and reflect on our own perspectives and values. The same goes for musicians. Cellist Alisa Weilerstein started her own in-house project — #36DaysofBach — gifting a live performance through social media each day with a movement from the Bach’s cello suites. Weilerstein says, “I think each person really listens to it [Bach] with a personal take on it. I suppose that can be applied to any music, but there’s something about Bach which is so timeless, and so sublime, and so human, that it’s universally touching” (Allen, 2020).
How does the pandemic affect one’s perception of music? Weilerstein believes: “I think it’s especially true for the Sarabande [a movement of a Bach suite]. It’s this one line, from which it traces this indescribable sadness, the feeling of complete isolation. I think of so many friends of mine who are going through this completely alone. It does make one play this music differently, thinking of a universal burden, rather than applying one’s own emotion to it” (Allen, 2020).
It is our privilege to find happiness through music during this distressing time. While the melody, harmony, and meaning of each musician’s performance can fall upon listeners’ ears unanimously or fall vulnerable to individual interpretations, it serves as a unifying factor as our planet embarks on a promising road to recovery. Surely, as Hans Christian Andersen once wrote, “Where words fail, music speaks.”
Allen, D. (2020, April 20). Does the pressure of a pandemic transform a cellist's Bach? Retrieved May 29, 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/20/arts/music/alisa-weilerstein-bach-coronavirus.html