The Legacy Of Music

Reflection – The Legacy of Music:  How often do you surprise yourself remembering the lyrics to songs you’ve not heard in decades – Sinatra ballads, Simon & Garfunkel tunes? For me, such memories are delightful and I wonder where in my brain they’re stored. Talking with a legacy colleague who works with the very elderly (often memory impaired and Alzheimer’s patients) she explained that part of the therapy is to have sing-alongs. The last thing to go as we age may well be our sense of smell, but also in the furthermost reaches of our minds is stored music, and the miracle is that it is accessible long after our cognitive skills, focus and concentration, have waned.

What has this to do with legacy? At the simplest level it made me want to write to my grandchildren and share with them some of the favorite songs I remember from childhood and early adulthood that I want to pass forward to them.

At a deeper level I want them to know how important the legacy of music is to nurture them when “the waters are troubled” in the larger world, when their hearts are breaking, when they are in need of healing, when their souls need comforting.

I consider us legacy writers to be guides or teachers, culling knowledge from the life experiences we’ve had, transmuting that knowledge into stories and wisdom to be preserved and communicated to our loved ones of a younger generation. Isn’t that indeed the purpose of legacy writing? It’s been my experience, miraculously, that even when these teens and young adults who think they know everything, they are hungry to hear my stories and the values I have to impart. As we begin the new year what I want to write about is something basic for all of us: the importance of music in our personal lives, and the life of our cultures.

Here’s a story about a time when I found music healing. I had newly separated from my husband, and although I had chosen to leave the marriage, I could hardly get out of bed, didn’t know who I was, filled with grief about my lost dream of how my life would be (married at 20 and it was 37 years later). A friend suggested I go to the “healing services” our Temple was offering. Not being observant and rarely attending services, I decided to try it anyway, desperate for help. So the next Thursday afternoon I found myself sitting in the sanctuary where I’d grown up. The music began. It took no longer than a couple of minutes for the legacy of music I’d learned as a kid to make its way to my broken heart. I wept through the service, letting the age-old music nourish my heart and soul. An unexpected miracle, but a second miracle was that I remembered every melody and most of the words from almost fifty years earlier.

The Legacy Of Music

Here is a taste of the wisdom I found researching the importance of music, from Plato to Maya Angelou, each with her own perspective depending on the times and personal perspectives:

“Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.”
– Plato

“Music opens a path into the realm of silence. Music reveals the human soul in stark nakedness as it were, without the customary linguistic draperies.”
– Josef Pieper

“Music is the sound of the soul, the direct voice of the subjective world.”
– Franz Kafka

“In time of care and sorrow, music will keep a fountain of joy alive in you.”
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Music is the divine way to tell beautiful, poetic things to the heart.”
– Pablo Casals

“Music is a piece of art that goes in the ears straight to the heart.”
– Anonymous

“Music is medicine.”
– Anonymous

“Though I am a physicist, I see my life in terms of music.”
– Albert Einstein

“To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the music the words make.”
– Truman Capote

“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.”
– Aldous Huxley

“To live is to be musical, starting with the blood dancing in your veins. Everything living has a rhythm.“
– Michael Jackson

“Music is the language of the Spirit. It opens the secret of life bringing peace, abolishing strife.”
– Khalil Gibran

“Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.”
– Confucius

“Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.”
– Maya Angelou


  1. Reflect about what the legacy of music means to you – when you were a child, a teen, a young adult, and today.
  2. Choose one of the quotations here that speaks to you personally and spend 15-20 minutes writing about it.
  3. Do you have a personal story that expresses your attitudes, feelings, perspective about music that may be relevant to someone else?
  4. Write a legacy letter to a loved one or a close friend sharing your findings about music of all kinds and its meaning in your life.
  5. If other media have diminished your music listening or playing, it’s a good time, at the New Year, to resolve to nourish yourself by inviting more music into your life.

“May all that has been reduced to noise in you, become music again.”
– Anonymous

Rachael Freed, LICSW, senior fellow, Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality & Healing, University of Minnesota, is the author of Your Legacy Matters and Women’s Lives, Women’s Legacies.  and

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