A Forty Day Experiment with Music

by Steve Laube

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I tried something new this year. During the 40 days prior to Easter, also known as Lent, I chose to listen to one and only one CD while driving in my car.

From March 5th to April 20th the only music playing was “Lent at Ephesus,” the #1 bestselling Classical Music album of the year. This means during that period I heard this music at least thirty times from start to finish. (Click to listen to samples from the album.)

The music itself is sacred acapella sung by the nuns of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of the Apostles, in Missouri. There are 27 songs in the collection, everything from original compositions to a piece from Bach’s “St. Matthew’s Passion.”

There is something special about the clarity and peacefulness in the pure vocals in a female chorus. The lofty heights of the voices and when multiple parts dance together it is like the weaving of a tapestry. I found myself waiting for the CD to cycle through to hear particular songs in their turn. The seven minute “Improperia” has a single note sung the entire song with the melody floating above it. The classic “All Glory Laud and Honor” is one that embeds its melody into your mind and replays itself throughout the day…in moments of praise and beauty.

The music isn’t for everyone. My tastes, as I unveiled last week, are rather eclectic. But this is one reason for the experiment…a discipline in some ways. To let all the other cacophony of the world with its commercials blaring or the thrumming bass countering my own heartbeat, to let that go away for a season. At the same time immersing myself in an art form.

As an agent in the literary world I can be bombarded by writers clamoring for attention. My own passion for ideas and creativity can pull me from one page to another very different page. It is good to be reminded of the power of creativity and to occasionally slow down and savor something that is unique and exquisitely executed.

Next time you find a great book, a great album, a great performance of any kind in the arts, consider stopping longer than normal and let that work wash over you like a stream of mountain water. And once refreshed, step back and say, “Now it is my turn to create.”

10 Responses to A Forty Day Experiment with Music

  1. Trip K April 21, 2014 at 4:06 am #

    I’m not familiar with this album, but I can relate to it. For several months, I listened to a classical music compilation CD for people who hate classical music, kind of a “best of….” I was writing the initial year of curriculum for a Bible school while living in the Philippines. It helped me be both reflective and inspired.

    I like a lot of classical music, but I also have an eclectic taste- from blues to 50′s & 60′s do-wop & rock. Now, I mostly listen to contemporary worship, along with piano and cello, and the occasional jump back to “oldies.”

    I find music can help me transcend the mundane and chaotic, or it can distract. Gotta choose the right stuff for the moment.

  2. JoAnne Potter April 21, 2014 at 5:10 am #

    I heard about this on the radio this weekend. Can hardly wait to get it.

  3. Lancia E. Smith April 21, 2014 at 5:55 am #

    Thank you, Steve, for sharing about this practice. I did something like this once over a long time period and still practice a version of it now. I once listened to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons everyday first thing in the morning for nearly two years. That music shaped me, encouraged and strengthened me, and in a very personal sense defined me. It gave my life a soundtrack when words could not sing to me. I am grateful to be reminded of that this morning and glad to know we are fellow practitioners of “immersion”. It is a good and fruitful discipline. Blessings to you!

  4. Stephen M. Miller April 21, 2014 at 6:55 am #

    Beautiful music. I woke to that style of music when I visited Rome several years ago. I stayed in a convent a block from St. Peter’s Basilica. The nuns sang in worship every morning before an early breakfast. It’s a soothing wake-up alarm.

  5. Sonya Contreras April 21, 2014 at 7:59 am #

    Ties in with an article I just read about the happiest people know how to take time and appreciate the simple things (like smelling the roses, eating…) http://ti.me/1hglPAC

    Another encouragement to see blessings in the little things. To slow down. To know God.

    Thank you.

  6. Marlene Anderson April 21, 2014 at 8:24 am #

    The only thing better than listening is actually singing or performing music. There was no greater thrill than having the opportunity several years ago to sing with an extended choir in the Vatican in Rome and other old cathedrals. Join a community group and sing or if you can, play an instrument. It is an incredible experience.

  7. Jeanne Takenaka April 21, 2014 at 8:57 am #

    Steve, what a unique idea. I have certain albums I listen to over and over again, as do my kids (think Newsboys and Toby Mac). But to listen to the same one for 40 days? Can’t say I’ve done that.

    I love the idea of really listening, slowing down and savoring. I recently read about a study that people have developed a habit of skimming the written word, reading just a bit of a news article, blog post, or book, or something else and moving on to the next thing. We’ve gotten out of the habit of reading through an entire article, blogpost or book.

    That has challenged me to slow down and really READ. Your post reminds me to slow down and really LISTEN. Thanks for that. There’s something to be said for being all in each moment.

  8. Rebecca Barlow Jordan April 21, 2014 at 9:18 am #

    Steve, thank you for posting this. I took the time to listen to all 23 samples of this CD this morning. Calming, serene, beautiful. Made my day. Thanks!

  9. Candy Arrington April 21, 2014 at 10:48 am #

    Lovely harmony.

  10. Theresa Santy April 21, 2014 at 10:49 am #

    I had a similar fasting experience with reading. I love to read and at any given time I could be reading the Bible, a Bible study, a novel, a book on writing, and a memoir. Since December is always crazy-busy and I almost always fall out of sorts by the time Christmas arrives, I wanted to try something that would center my focus. I decided to read only the Bible from December 31st to January 31st. It was a beautiful, glorious experiment, and even though I got antsy toward the end of January, and even though I quickly fell back into old reading patterns, I’m looking forward to doing this fast again next December.

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