Marriage Between the Discursive and Contemplative

Music is a beautiful example of harmony, the coming together of realities with differences to create a new whole. Music gives us so many tangible examples of realities that exist in the world that it is very much a philosophical discipline. This is how music was viewed in the Middle Ages and it still holds true today.

When we practice music, whether we are aware of it or not, we are employing means of thinking that are also employed by people all over the world. I am thinking or discursive and contemplative thought. By “discursive”, I mean thinking in terms of analysis, gathering data, deconstructing and finding out about all of the parts of something. We often use this type of thought when we are working on technique or studying a new piece. By “contemplative” I mean the thought process that brings things together, sees them as a whole, simple beholds a truth or reality. We often do this when we are witness to a great artist’s painting or sculpture or hear a great musician in a live concert. We simply behold and enjoy. Everything has come together for that moment. I believe it is helpful to consider both discursive and contemplative thought, because the life of a musician requires both. It requires both discipline and spirit.

Discipline without spirit becomes moralistic, legalistic, and constraining. Spirit without discipline on the other hand can become unfocused, without purpose, and even destructive. However, when discipline and spirit come together, they offer freedom, direction, balance, and even joy. This is the harmony, the marriage between two different realities. In life we want to attain this harmony. We want to live with self control, taking care of our responsibilities. At the same time we want to live with spirit, enjoying our life, contemplating its beauties and beholding its mysteries. When we bring these together, we have balance.

Using the example of studying a piece of music, we contemplate a new piece when we hear it for the first time. We then begin the journey of study, discursive thought, patiently looking at all of the details within the composition, considering what the composer is communicating, and what techniques we will employ to convey his or her message. We then begin to interpret, experimenting with phrasing, color, and emotional expression. And so we contemplate the beauty of the music and everything comes together within our interpretation. This experience we often share with others in performance. The whole process can take some time, so we seek patience. It is important during this process for the musician to give time to both technique and spirit so as to play with quality and also with joy and freedom.



What Is Music For?

IMG_3077Do you remember being a very small child and dancing to music? Do you remember the almost uncontrollable, exuberance with which you moved to the music, as if you couldn’t contain the awesome feeling it gave you to be one with that joy? This is the purpose of music, to uplift and free the human spirit, to give it expression, to give it movement.

This is a good thing to remember, especially when trying to understand music in depth, because it is easy to get off track and onto the road of fame seeking, prestige, or being smarter or more skilled than others. In the words of the American Rock band Survivor, in that famous song “Eye of the Tiger”, “So many times, it happens too fast, you trade you passion for glory”. Let us remain pure in our intention, the intention to positively interact with others and with our own human soul through the means which music offers us. If music is feeding the best part of ourselves, then it is doing its job.

IMG_2573Picture from a dress rehearsal before a concert at the La Verne Chamber Orchestra (LVSO)

Through music we tell stories that are passed down from generation to generation. There is continuity with our ancestors, and with our children. We take what is given to us, cherish that spirit, and live our own story, in our turn passing that spirit on.

FOLI (there is no movement without rhythm) original version by Thomas Roebers and Floris Leeuwenburg

This is a beautiful video of the famous sitar player Ravi Shankar playing music with his daughter Anoushka Shankar. The joy is evident as all the musicians and audience take part in sharing music together.

Ravi Shankar & Anoushka Shankar Live: Raag Khamaj (1997)


Music at the Service of Others

Today is Respect Life Sunday in the Catholic Church. It is a wonderful day to celebrate the dignity and sacredness of all human life! In honor of this day, I want to give you an update about our Rose Life Benefit Concert Series. Our series raises awareness for the need that exists in our communities to help women who find themselves in a unplanned pregnancies and to encourage community involvement by supporting life-giving pregnancy help centers. We give concerts honoring the good work done by these centers and bring their message to church communities through quality music concerts.

Our Latest Rose Life concert took place at St Peter and St Paul Church in Alta Loma, CA in the Diocese of San Bernardino. We performed music by Isabella Leonarda, Bach, Schubert, Massenet, Amy Beach, Armas Järnefeldt, and others.  We were so blessed to have everyone attend and are truly grateful for the response, with a standing ovation and generous donations given to the Assure Pregnancy Clinic located in Fontana, CA. My special thanks go to St Peter and St Paul Church and to Audrey Donaldson who played piano with me in the concert and to my mom, Deborah Cummins, who worked to coordinate the event and who made a beautiful gallery display of photographs of moms and babies served by Assure and provided an awesome reception for us.

We’re working to find ways to help moms, dads, and babies who are in need in our community. It is beautiful to employ our gifts in the service of helping each other. It makes the world a better place. Some are able to work directly in pregnancy help centers. Some are able to volunteer at food banks. Some are able to donate financially to organizations that help people in need. I’m a musician, so I enjoy being part of this series where I can use my gifts to support pregnancy help centers.

We plan on holding more Rose Life Concerts in the future. It is my biggest hope that more musicians and artists will take up this idea and run with it in their own communities.

Many hanks also to Marie Widmann from the Diocese of San Bernardino for attending the concert and writing an article about what the concert series and respect life is all about.

Danielle Rosaria (violin) and Audrey Donaldson (piano) after their Rose Life performance on September 20, 2014 at St Peter and St Paul Church, Alta Loma, CA