We talk about ‘playing’ a musical instrument, using the same word as for a children’s game. The evolutionary biologists would tell us that play in animals, including humans, has survival value: for the individual, for the pack or family, and for the species as a whole. Players need to know that their play partner or opponent is friendly, even when what the game looks aggressive. They also need to learn how to temper their playful aggression: nipping gently, not biting, for example. All that makes sense.
But music? We know that birds use it assertively to define their territory, though to my ear a well-tuned, innovative song thrush takes his singing a step further than ever he needs to.
Human music seems to be another gratuitous gift. The variety today is beyond measure, but so much of what was played before us is forever lost, no recordings, not a written note from so many of our ancestors.
The act of playing depends on so many other people: woodcutter, instrument maker, electrician, composer, architect, hall cleaner, printer … the list goes on, whatever genre of music. And how it can move us! And it needs to be practised, solo and in a group. How many groups started as friends, playing – the operative word here in many ways – at school or in each other’s homes?
I leave you with a spine-tingling moment as L’Arche communities from around Britain and Europe entered Canterbury Cathedral last summer for their 40th Birthday bash. I was glad to be there!
See The Independent Catholic News story at: http://www.indcatholicnews.com/news.php?viewStory=25097
For animals, in particular dogs at play: John Bradshaw, In Defence of Dogs, Penguin, 2012, pp202ff.