That Moment of Freedom

“You know that moment when you are playing bass and it's like surfing?” Sadly, I don’t, but I sure wish I did, because judging from the glowing expression of the student I overheard saying this, it must be great.

The recent music show helped me understand something about music and its role at SVS, and it started with this remark. You see, this student doesn't surf, but the idea of riding the waves perfectly expressed for him what can happen when performing music, and something in connection with his remark finally fell into place for me after watching our students during the show.

Why we have music - and music shows - at SVS is an interesting question. The fact that shows can be good PR, and an opportunity for families and friends to obtain physical evidence of SVS students doing something tangible - organized all by themselves, to boot! - while at school, is wonderful, but absolutely secondary, I think, to something more essential to music, to music in our school, and to what actually happens during performances, when people “ride the waves”.

I think I understand - and am in awe of - the kind of mastery of the body and the elements involved not just in keeping afloat in water, but also in actually staying on top of a wave and moving in harmony with it, upright, and in control.

And I love how the image of surfing transfers to riding the other, more intangible waves of sound, with some interesting differences. In music, you and your fellow musicians are in fact producing the very waves you are riding. And you are sending them back and forth between one another and between you and your audience, creating patterns, motion, and feelings.

What hearing and seeing our students perform the show in February made me understand is the tremendous freedom of it: the freedom in staying upright and in command within an environment that can turn chaotic in an instant, the freedom of being able to do this thing that comes from trying, practicing, honing, and ultimately mastering yourself and the elements. Even more, I saw and heard the freedom of not only surviving in the element of sound, not only of playing a song, but of creating these waves, of setting sound in motion, of playing with the possibility of chaos, and of creating dynamic balances, by yourself and with others.

When I finally realized just how performing music can be an act of freedom, for me it answered not only the question of why there is always music at our school, but it also explained the particular kind of music students gravitate towards, most of it falling under the wide umbrella of rock and pop. This music has its roots in the blues, and in a yearning for freedom in self-expression. I saw and heard the beauty of this in yesterday's show.

The views expressed on this page are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Sudbury Valley School.