Music Saves No One

The evening news closed with the obituary of "Holocaust-survivor" Alice Herz-Sommer, whose story features in a short film, soon to be noticed in the Oscars. The Lady in Number 6 provided clips of the deceased pianist, suitable for an evening news bulletin. In one of these excerpts, Mrs. Herz-Sommer said that music is her religion before correcting herself - music is her god.

If this lady had not been through World War II, we would gasp at such a sentiment. But we do not gasp. We are asked instead to admire her courage, optimism and humanity. The fact that she managed to survive through music and by music is deemed a victory.

A victory over what, we might ask? It is not a victory over Hitler or the Nazi party. A victory over suffering, suggest some. But many people suffer. Many people have traumatic experiences.

Remove the emotive context of the war. Ruth has been gang-raped. She takes time to recover physically. The mental scars never seem to heal. She is fearful and vulnerable. Ruth discovers that drink and drugs help her to forget. She soon becomes an addict. Is this a victory? Has Ruth conquered her abusers by surviving what she went through? Of course not. She has run from the pain and sought a way to make herself forget. The solution has destroyed her.

Music may be used like a drug. We can certainly become "drunk" on music. Many people today are addicted. The side effects seem tolerable, so no one complains. But culture is changed. People are living on a knife edge of pain and despair, their precarious position maintained only by a little audio harmony.

The sense of victory celebrated in the lives of people like Mrs. Herz-Sommer is a perceived victory against God. It is a defiant cry against God's Providence, that no matter what trauma is faced, nothing will bring people to their knees to ask for forgiveness of their own sins.

If you rely on music to produce a feeling in order to cope, then as soon as the music stops you are alone again. In fact, you are more alone than you were before, because you have admitted that you need music.

No Earthly Good? The Christian in Culture by Abigail Fox, Appendix 2: Music