Cantillatory Music

By John Diamond, M.D.

Something suddenly happened to me in the concert hall. I felt as though I had been shaken awake. It was as if I had become totally dissociated from the musical activity before me. I was totally detached, as if it had nothing to do with me. I was in no way involved. I was just an observer. And what was I observing?

There on the stage before me was an orchestra of some eighty musicians. They had practiced and studied for years and years to arrive at this point in their careers. Each was being paid for the night’s performance. Behind them was a choir of about two hundred singers who had worked similarly hard at their craft, and who were also being paid. In addition there were four soloists, who had studied and studied, and they too were being paid. In charge was the conductor in all his glory, and I thought of all the money that he was being paid for this night. Years and years of work, and thousands of dollars.

I looked around me at the audience, some three thousand of them. Many had come a long distance. It had not been easy for them to get here and they had all paid to attend. Lots of effort, lots of time, lots of money. The concert hall in which we were sitting had itself been built for just such a purpose.

We had all come for a performance of what is called a religious oratorio. But it did not cantillate. It was not even high energy. The performers were really singing and playing “I hate my mother.” And our bodies, minds and souls resonated with that message, as had the walls of the concert hall through nearly every performance.

This could not be the reason for the existence of music. So much work, so much expense, so much effort. All for this?

I broke away from the music. I wanted to love my mother and I wanted to know and feel her love. I did not want all this activity before me. I just wanted her to hold me in her arms, stroke my hair, smile at me, and then sing her song of love to me. That is the true purpose of music.