Music, Interdependence, and the Entangled Self

Back in July, my cousin Rebecca sent me an audio clip of me singing the 1949 classic “Nobody’s Child,” when I was about three or four years old (Bex, if you’re reading this, you should by now, with my repeated reference to you over the last three weeks, be able to gauge my love for you. Smiled? Okay, now read on). The moment I listened to it, I missed home. I still do. There is undoubtedly a strong connection between life, people, music, and memory. By memory, I refer to the power of remembering and recalling events, experiences, people, time, and data. A song can instantaneously take us back in time, or can resuscitate the life, the memory, and the feeling of touch of a person known and loved. But how and why does this happen?

            Over the last few months, my hands have cheerfully and painfully glazed over my chapel’s black and (off) white keys, invoking feelings and memories of laughter, joy, and excitement, but also that of disappointment, hurt, and grief. In the effort to make sense of the events that have transpired, I have once again come to rediscover the power of music. And in having done so, learnt to embrace the to and froing of losing and finding oneself in what I’d like to preliminarily (and hopefully without looking inept) call “musical entanglement;” an entanglement constituted by the sound of harmony and dissonance, the high and low voices, and the monophonic and polyphonic notes. This musical entanglement, resulting in periods of tranquility and intense restlessness, served to further re/produce an entangled me. Marked by the synthesis of congruence and contradiction, this was, at best, a deeply vulnerable process. 

Entanglement (Musical, Cosmological)

            In her book Cloud of the Impossible, renowned theologian Catherine Keller writes how entanglement, studied from the perspective of quantum physics, “is at the heart of things.” Entanglement points to the fact that no one thing is separate from the other. I am not going to delve into it here (not that I could even if I tried), but she goes on to state how any two particles upon inevitable interaction, irrespective of the distance between them, remain connected, constantly responding to each other.[1] The two particles become interdependent. The same, then, can be said of persons (and non-persons). Each person that I know of and have interacted with at any given time continue to have an effect on my being—I may not seem to recognize it, or I might notice and ignore it, but if truth be told I cannot undo it. The givenness of our embodied interdependence renders the dominant notion of inherent separateness as a myth, and music, apart from theology of course, has only reaffirmed this to me.

            Music, and perhaps second only to the Divine, is a great connective force. Most of my associations—long-lasting, terminated, new, and returning—are in some way or the other related to music. If this is my weakness it is also my strength, and I have learnt to wholeheartedly embrace this (and many more) inherent contradiction(s). Music has taught me to hold together in creative tension the certitudes and the uncertainties of relationships, of life itself. Certain as every note we hear and play is mysteriously entangled with the often unheard reverberations of the preceding notes; certain as each moment we live finds its purpose and meaning in those with, behind, and ahead of us; and certain as the music we make and encounter is shaped by life’s experiences, may we advance but with intermittent pauses­—much like in music—knowing that you, I, and the rest of us are all inextricably entangled. 

The decades-old audio clip continues to reveal the beauty and grace in music, interdependence, and the entangled self.

[1] Catherine Keller, Cloud of the Impossible: Negative Theology and Planetary Entanglement (New York: Columbia University Press, 2015), 147.

Cover image by DIMOS ZITOUNIATIS from Pixabay 

Inline Image by Fine Mayer from Pixabay 

4 thoughts on “Music, Interdependence, and the Entangled Self

  1. Thumbs a complicated thought on Music interdependence & the entangled self. Your interdependence in music & entanglement has got a deeper meaning beyond comprehension. All that can be said is the black & white keys are essential in music so also in life. A Good & scholarly effort. Music has kept you going forward with Christ centered life. Nice description 👌 of entanglement
    ( Musical & Cosmological) Dad & I are proud of you. God Bless


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