Thursday, June 4, 2015

Music as the Language of the Soul

Music is a universal language that allows people to connect with each other as they listen to its profound beauty.  Music itself might not be palpable, but it still affects people in deep and meaningful ways.  It can create joy, conjure memories, or simply be something pleasant that people would want to listen to on a bad day.  As people change over time, so does the music.  That is because music often times reflects the time period in which a piece had been composed.  In “Caedmon's Hymn,” this example of a musical work of art helped shape the rest of the English literary tradition because of its influence on both literature and music as a whole.

Upon hearing “Caedmon's Hymn,” it reminded me about the power of religion.  Since the piece is literally a hymn, I felt as if the composer was trying to connect with God.  People have been trying to understand their place within the universe as they continue to question why they exist both historically as well as today.  Religion has been a major influence on how the world operates because there are people who would want to have a sense of purpose of why they exist.  Creating the first hymn in English might also have been a blessing that the divine gave mankind because it allowed human civilization to progress into the society that it is today.  “Caedmon's Hymn” might have been composed for religious reasons, but God might have blessed the world with the wide variety of music that exists currently within the present day.

“Caedmon's Hymn” also has a strong influence on how music developed over history.  An example of such influence is soulful song known as “Motherless Child,” which is also an anonymous work, reveals the fundamental power of the bond between a mother and a child.  Interestingly, both pieces evoke feelings of longing and connection.  Perhaps a reason why music has such a strong influence upon society is because music connects people together.  Language might create barriers between people, and separate them, but music allows people to express themselves in ways words cannot.  That is because music transcends speech as people hear the enigmatic nature of musical sounds that ultimately touch the heart.  People might have their own respective tastes in music, but being able to enjoy music together helps unify people together while also acknowledging the diversity that exists in the world.  In the end, “Caedmon's Hymn” might have been created for religious reasons, but having the first poem in the English language has truly been a blessing because it led to the development of the entire English literary canon.

The shifts in music between “Caedmon's Hymn” and the present day also reveal the fundamental fact that everything changes over the time.  Upon hearing this song, it sounded like gibberish to me.  I honestly thought that all I heard was noise rather than an actual song that people today are accustomed to, such as the songs with English lyrics head on CDs and the radio.  Later on, as society progressed, so did music and literature.  For example, the piece by Shelley entitled, “A Song: Men of England” reveals how music and religion still had connections many centuries after the creation of "Caedmon's Hymn."  In fact, Shelley's piece sounded like a hymn as well because it sounded like music that people might sing in a church choir.  The main difference between "A Song: Men of England" and "Caedmon's Hymn" is that Shelley's piece contained elements of a human voice instead of being just sounds, like the ones heard in “Caedmon's Hymn.”  I do not believe that "Caedmon's Hymn had any actual language because I did not hear words, but just sounds.  Such progress within the history of music reveals how people attempted to give themselves a voice through musical expression rather than simply live as passive listeners.  Thus, music transitioned from being a listening activity to one in which people would proactively try to make their voices be heard.

In spite of the changes that happen, “Caedmon's Hymn” also serves as a reminder that people should not forget about their origins.  Countless works of music have been made after the hymn itself, which reveals how the wide collection of music that exists today is full of variety.  In fact, “Slot Machine” by Emily XYZ does sound much more different than “Caedmon's Hymn.”  The sharp contrast between these two pieces of music serves as a reminder of how music evolves.  For example, "Caedmon's Hymn" simply had simple sounds, but "Slot Machine" had lyrics and a rhythm that might be more relatable to modern audiences.  Music within the English tradition might have started because of religious reasons, but the transition between the religious and the secular reveals how society changed over much of the history of the world.  People might be more focused on themselves in the present day, but “Caedmon's Hymn” can still serve as a reminder that music would not be like what it is today if “Caedmon's Hymn” had never been composed.  It is hard to say if music came before language, but they both intertwine to help people understand each other as well as themselves.  Therefore, even as the world changes, it is still important to not forget history because the past can teach people about why the world is like what it is today.

Finally, the importance of “Caedmon's Hymn” involves much more than just a history lesson.  This piece of music is essentially an anonymous form of expression that helped inspire many other musicians and artists who express their ideas as well.  Music and literature might appear to be separate, but they both allow for the transmission of ideas that could be read as well as heard.  Music and literature has evolved tremendously since the creation of "Caedmon's Hymn," but that simply reveals the fundamental power of change.  This simple fact serves as a reminder that human imagination has no boundaries as people attempt to express who they are through the art they strive to create.

Works Cited


Anonymous. “Caedmon's Hymn.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature, 4th ed,


Anonymous. “Motherless Child.”  African American Spirituals: The Concert Tradition,

      Wade in the Water, Vol. 1, Smithsonian Folkways, 1994. CD.

Shelley, Percy Bysshe. “A Song: Men of England.” The Norton Anthology of English
       Literature, 4th ed, CD.

XYZ, Emily.  “Slot Machine.”  The United States of Poetry. CD.

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