Music and the contemplative life

In recent years I’ve lamented how music has less and less a place in my life, especially in comparison to my college years when I’d buy a new album and listen to it clear through within the first week. Headphones on, uninterupted. In some ways there were fewer distractions back then — no TV, no Wii, no blog or Facebook or Twitter — and more time to give to arts other than my own.

My wife voiced the same lament again, though, in the past month. We probably pay attention to music during the Christmas season more than any other time of year, so it was on her mind. She also comes from a much more musical family than I (my family tends towards the visual arts).

After she said that I had some music on, I think it was Christmas music playing on Epiphany while we took the tree down, and I made note of a link between the enigmatic art of music and the contemplative life. Music can help me focus. Focus will be different depending on the style; that is, Saviour Machine will produce a different kind of direction in thought than Bach.

Music is part of a contemplative life, whether played or listened to.

When we moved back up to Nebraska we knew we’d miss being around some of the musicians we knew in Northwest Arkansas: Traci Letellier, Fool For Now, David Farley, Jamey Clayberg (aka Herva). It was great having very talented musicians in our local circle of friends. Nebraska has its own including Rob Martinson II with The Hatchbacks. Also here in central Nebraska is Leesha Harvey, who I’d like to meet some day.



About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at

2 Responses to Music and the contemplative life

  1. Sarah Jane says:

    Not sure precisely how this relates to what you’re saying here, but my own creative process (which is kind-of contemplative in itself) is intimately tied to music.

    In the very open-ended stage when I’m first pulling together ideas for a new project, I find myself turning to old favorites and really relishing songs that I’ve listened to hundreds of times before. (For the last decade, Emmylou Harris has reigned at the top of my list.) Later in the process, when I know what I’m doing and am really scrambling to get everything ready for a show, I really enjoy listening to new music and discovering new artists.

    Additionally, if I’ve gone too long without listening to (and losing myself in) music that I love, it definitely affects my own creativity and joy.

  2. pcNielsen says:

    Huh, this post is kind of random, in writing style that is.

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