Songs are everywhere. In our private and public places. They proceed and follow momentous occasions from weddings to funerals, even to presidential inaugurations. Why is that?
Songs help us express the inexpressible. There is nothing more inexpressible than the human heart. It is multi-faceted, contradictory, simultaneously holy and profane. Songs help us live through, excavate meaning from or simply organize organize our experience by appealing to the visceral, the human heart.
Songs help us live through our experience. Perhaps you lose a loved one and you need a way through the sadness that accompanies the loss, so you find a song. Or rather, the song finds you. The song has no power to change the situation, or even heal it, but it has the power to console. We all know that sometimes, that’s as good as it gets. And sometimes that’s all we need. When tragedy strikes, we move to the subterranean levels of ourselves where things don’t make sense, they simply are. Songs have the ability to meet us there, below the intellect, below reason. Songs can be threads that tie together the tapestry of our experience on an emotional level.
Corporately, songs can be vehicles for collective expression. If a group of people want to celebrate the existence of a single person, what do they do? They sing “happy birthday.” If a group of people want to worship God, one way is to sing together. Songs gather us around a message emotionally. It implicitly aligns our hearts with what we are saying. It’s why we sing Happy Birthday instead of chanting it, and why we use melody to worship, not simply corporate recitation. It helps us to mean it.