Saturday, August 26, 2006

Sounds and Names and Meanings and Prayers

I just spent an enjoyable couple of days with my beloved godson, Matt. Matt is a musician, and we spend lots of time "trying out CDs" on eachother. It always is very special to spend time with him.

This time I introduced him to some new "world music" that he had not heard -- among them a Sufi singer from Pakistan who uses lots of made-up words in his ecstatic singing. Kind of like Pakistani scat singing. The interesting thing is that when I first heard him, I didn't know he was making up words. I can't speak his language. But I got the drift of the music anyway -- the sense of awe and joy in it.

What is it about sound that communicates feeling? I suppose since I am familiar with western tonal structures that it is easy for me to sense music that is supposed to be sad, or joyous. But in listening to this man from Pakistan, I had no such tonal familiarity. Both the music and the language were foreign to me.

Sound communicates meaning. We get all worked up about language, when there we have sound, right in front of us, communicating meaning.

The observant birdwatcher can tell when what he hears is the cry of distress. The loving mother knows when her baby is crying from hunger or whether the baby is in pain. Even dog owners learn over time -- if they listen -- to generally tell what their dog's bark is about.

This all made me start to brain-ramble a bit.

And I started to think about names. Names of people. When we are born, our parents give us not just a name -- they also give us a sound by which we are to be recognized. In American Sign Language, when you introduce yourself, you also present a sign for who you are -- like a sound -- not just a spelled out word that equals your name...a gesture that says who you are. And that is what a name is -- a tonal gesture that says who we are.

A name is more than a name. It is a sound -- a musical expression. In receiving our names we have been given a sound that is us. Whenever I hear this exact sound I turn, thinking whomever is making it means me.

Then I started to brain ramble back to music.

I wondered what it would sound like for a choir to just say all their names at once, like a chord. Probably cacophonous. I think that must be what God hears when we pray -- such sound!

I saw the movie about the March of the Penguins and how, before a parent sets out from the huge flock of birds to find food, they rehearse a certain tone between themselves and their child, so they will be able to find each other again. They find that unique sound that is between only them. When the parent returns, weeks later, the baby penguins have changed externally, but they all know their sound, and they cry it out into the blizzard of snow and sounds until the reunion happens.

And when I pray, and when my life makes its sounds, I send my sound through the blizzard of other prayers and sounds. My name for God, along with the secret knowing of eachother that we share, spins and spirals around through all the other names for God -- and through all the other secret sounds by which believers are known to The Believed In. God and I circle eachother until we reunite. And then He knows me, and claims me as His own. And I know Him. And from just my sound, my life's music hurled in His direction, He hears my heart.


Blogger samtzmom said...

Beautiful Mata, just beautiful... Have a very lovely day.

6:32 AM  
Blogger alto artist said...

I love this post (which I've been meaning to say for the past week!). You've described exactly how I feel when I chant Torah.

12:42 PM  
Blogger Mata H said...

thanks to both of you. for some reason - unknown even to me - this post felt important to me - it was difficult to shape it -- so it feels still un-formed in many ways as though something about it still percolates...

2:23 PM  

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