Hearing and Music

Hearing and Music

by Sr. Cecily Bourdillion MMM           Ireland           27.08.2022

I begin every day thanking God for the many gifts showered upon me – and one that is so very precious is that of hearing. What would my life be like without music?

I love Classical music. My first memory of music is listening to that which emerged from the “gramophone” of my father. As he moved around in rural Africa in the 1930’s he carried with him “His Master’s Voice” records, thick and heavy, that were played on the gramophone. The equipment was wound up with a handle. What amazing technology! As a needle ran along the grooves of the record, sound came forth!

Then electricity came to rural Africa. The records were the same, but they dropped down onto a revolving disc turned by electricity. I remember our favourites. They were John McCormack singing Panis Angelicus and Yehudi Menuhin playing Beethoven’s violin sonata at the age of 16 years. This was on the two sides of three records. Fortunately, they were so arranged that the three records could be placed on the support. They dropped down one after the other and then they could be turned over together and the music continued. These records played at 78 revolutions per minute (78rpm).

These records were replaced by the larger, lighter records that needed a finer needle and played at 32rpm. Much more fitted on these records. We could order them, and they came by post and so we added to our library. Of course, all those records are now obsolete, “antiques”, hardly ever seen!

Tapes and tape recorders appeared. These were a wonderful advance for they could be easily carried around and installed in vehicles. How I loved listening to Jaqueline du Pre playing Dvorak’s Cello Concerto whilst travelling along the rough roads of the African countryside to outreach clinics or going to the city for shopping.

Tapes got caught up and deteriorated so the Compact Disc (CD) was a welcome advance. The player could be carried around one’s neck and played at any time. The CD carried so much more music, was light and small and easily stored in large numbers. The DVD made the musicians visible – pianists, singers, orchestras.

Now we live in a world of digital technology and a library of music can be carried in one’s pocket on the iPod or the Media Player – MP3. We have the radio and Lyric FM here in Ireland that gives us music by day and by night.

It is wonderful to be able to listen to music when alone, or sitting with others in a large room, or in a vehicle. But there is nothing to be compared with live music such as sitting in a concert hall with an orchestra playing. Listening to Tchaikovsky’s 1st Symphony became for me a profound prayer. I seemed to be caught up in the various moods and passion of the music. I experienced the peace, the glory, the power, the passionate love of our God – in the great company of Heaven, praising God, Source of all beauty and of Music.