Today was a heavy day on campus. I spent my day listening not to music, but to the frustrations and fears of the young adults with whom I spend my days. African-American students who wonder if their families are safe. Gay and lesbian students who wonder if the freedoms they’ve won will be rolled back. Young women who see who was defeated, and by whom. Foreign students who wonder if they will be allowed to stay. Students who are near graduation who watch the day’s economic news with sinking stomachs. A student battling a rare illness who depends on the ACA for coverage.
We spend our days together – our afternoons twice weekly, to be precise – singing for one another and listening, verbalizing our reactions, or taking in the reactions of others. As musicians, we must choose to believe those others when they tell us that we are not coming across as we intend. Listening deeply to them, we change small things here and there until we achieve the expression we want to convey. Sometimes there’s a big difference between the “truth” of our feelings and the way you put that truth out there so that other people can understand it.
All those in this beloved country who are not frightened by the results of our election, please, hear those who are. If you are frightened and angry, please, listen even as you raise your voice. We are all certainly speaking from a place of truth within ourselves, but I tell you what I know as a musician – you may well not be coming across as you intend.
One quarter of this country’s eligible voters made yesterday’s dark choice. There are many other voices to be heard, and many of them stayed silent yesterday. For myself, I will not stay silent when the ideals I find most beautiful and inspiring about my country are attacked. I will not stay silent and give in to apathy or fear. But, at the same time, I have to see my part in this is to listen, even to things I don’t wish to hear. Even when the message is imperfectly produced. Especially then.
Certainly music of all kinds can be a solace to the hurting soul, and clearly, our nation is in immense pain, in every corner, flailing and afraid. But, more than this, musicians and lovers of music know something about listening, and about the transformation it can bring.
The great pianist Igor Levit says it better than I ever could, and did so before a concert last night in Brussels: