Music as Metaphor

God made everything in this world as a metaphor-something that is not Him to point us and connect us with Him. In this includes music.  God created the tones that we use and order in our pieces of music. Composers, as creators in the image of God the Ultimate Creator, should also order music as a metaphor for reality.

Many metaphors can be found in music, such as the relationship between motives or themes. A metaphor is something that bridges the gap between two separate things, with the goal of bringing them together in some way. For example, when two motives share the same intervals, they are connected by this commonality. Much of analysis is spent on matters like this.  I want to go a step deeper and discuss how music itself is a metaphor.  Music carries meaning beyond the literal. Music reflects reality, therefore it connects us to it.  Music carries us over a gap and connects us to something outside of ourselves. On one level, this can be connection with other people as we perform and listen together. At the deepest level, music can connect us with God Himself.  Music acts as a bridge between the spiritual and the physical. This can be likened to Jesus acting as the Ultimate Metaphor as He is our mediator who connects the Holy to the unholy: God the Father to us fallen human beings.  Music is like a prayer that consists of groanings too deep for words, yet still finds a way to reach the Father’s heart.  And music can travel both directions as we speak to God and God speaks to us. It is almost as if the Holy Spirit Himself is music, the gap that connects us as He deals directly with our affections while we live life on this earth. 

This is different from all other art forms. Music, unlike all else, has the power to evoke feelings such as joy, sorrow, and longing, without being in relation to any visual subject matter. It is non-figurative.  Artists recognized this and aimed to achieve the same power through their art by making their art non-figurative, and thus abstract art was born.  Look at Rothko’s works or the paintings of Kandinsky. It is as if pure emotion has made its way onto the canvas. However, even abstract art cannot hold this emotional power to the same degree as music.  Abstract art is completely subjective.  And even though music is non-figurative (with exception to the most abstract forms), it still has objectivity, unlike abstract art.  There are still musical figures, such as motives or melodies, that can be likened to characters interacting with each other. There are laws of consonance and dissonance as given to us by the harmonic series and these laws can either be followed or broken.  It is the treatment of these laws that have the power to bring to surface our buried emotions.  Keep in mind we are discussing metaphor of music as it relates to life, not life itself. Breaking these laws in music can be purposeful and right, because it can be used to express the dark nature we see and experience. Just as following the musical laws can show we know how life is initially meant to be, with no corruption.  Or perhaps the purpose of resolving dissonance can give a sense of hope for future redemption.