Music – A Divine Gift from God

01.10.2015 Sari Murtonen

It has been a year since the international conference on hymnology, Hymn – Song – Society, in the beautiful milieu of Hanasaari, Espoo. I can still remember the breathtaking musical experiences, presentations that widened my thinking, several interesting and inspiring discussions and the spirit of the conference, so nice and hearty. The conference has been on my mind recently also because I have been revising my article Young adults and spiritually experienced music that bases on my conference presentation and my future doctoral thesis in religious education, The meaning of Christian and spiritually experienced music on young adults’ religious learning trajectories and spiritual growth. In my article I study the music that the ten young adults that I interviewed had experienced as spiritual. Their background was in the Evangelical Lutheran Church but some of them had left the church, as it seems to be trendy among many young adults in Finland nowadays. Some of them had Christian faith, but some of them preferred certain ideologies or philosophies instead.

Often those with Christian faith and spirituality could experience the Christian music as spiritual. Most of them could also experience that some secular music, for example popular music pieces on the radio or some instrumentals, support their Christian spirituality. The lyrics were used as a prayer or interpreted as a message from God or the music could create a feeling of a sacred space whenever listened to. On the other hand, a Christian hymn could be experienced as “touch of god” even though no god existed in the person’s belief system. Music as a form of art leaves room for interpretation and dialogue and it speaks the language of emotions. And then there is something mysterious in it as well.

When I’m writing my doctoral thesis I often listen to music from contemporary Christian music to jazz and pompous movie soundtracks. A few times I have found some instrumental music on Youtube. That music was supposed to help in concentrating on studying, for example Relaxing Instrumental Music by Michael Fesser, alias relaxdaily, from Germany ( Also sometimes, instead of reading the background theories for my thesis, I have found myself reading the experiences that people have written for example about relaxdaily’s music. This actually seemed to become my sub-study for a while. The particular music is not created for religious contexts or environments of use and yet it still seems to influence the listeners not only in a relaxing way or by improving their study or work results, but in a spiritual way as well.

Here are some citations from the Youtube page of Relaxing Instrumental Music – relaxdaily:

ThePalaceofMusic 1 month ago
This music gives me the feeling that one day, after I die, I will see my family members again in Heaven and ultimately embrace Christ.

adelina nana 2 months ago
this is definitely the best way to begin a holiday – relaxing and doing some yoga ♫♫♫ your music is unbelievable magical, very very addictive… can’t stop listening, I just want to listen this forever ♫

Antonio Jr Mendoza 3 months ago
Thank you, Michael. I am looking for a background music while I am reading the Holy Bible. And I find your music. Great thanks. God loves you. God loves us all.

joyspel 1 year ago
I tried to listen to other relaxîg music here on youtube. I always come back straight to your music that has something special to connect to my spirit. Uou do an immense job. You are gifted!!! This is Talent!

Linda Larson Schlitz 1 year ago
you are such a “faucet” to the world Michael! I never get tired of your music…and I have written some pretty awesome worship lyrics to the tunes because that’s just what it does for me…takes me into a place of Godly serenity!  Thank you!

Madan Thota 1 year ago
Thank you Michael. After listening to many genres of music past 30 years, your music has become my favorite of all time. Thank you for sharing. May Lord Krishna bless you.

These comments, as well as my own study, made me think about the divine essence of music. How can we actually experience the sacred in music and what kind of sacred it is that we experience? What is it that makes the music spiritual, especially in the case of this kind of instrumental music without any religious context or connections? Martin Luther said that music is a gift from God. Is it so that all music has a divine origin? I quote one of my informants who expressed her thoughts in this way: “Almost each human being has a spiritual side and then another side so that if you make music about your life, you will certainly make a few spiritual songs as well. If you reflect your own life in the music, you can’t help including the spirituality in some way” (Enni). If this is true, then does the same apply when music is listened to, sung or played?

It is both confusing and amazing that people who probably come from different cultures and religious backgrounds seem to experience the same music as spiritual. Whether a person was doing yoga or reading the Bible, the same music could be played in the background. It could raise a person’s thoughts to Christ as well as to Krishna. Could it be that the music creates a space for dialogue and understanding between people with different religious backgrounds and from different cultures on the level of experiences? Could people share the experience of the presence of sacred even though the substance of religion would cause contradictions on the level of cognitive understanding?

Throughout the history of Christianity there have been several debates about what kind of music is appropriate in the church context and what kind of music is “good” Christian music. The tradition of church music has been formed over time through negotiations and generations after generations have brought in new aspects and influences from the surrounding culture. Nowadays also secular music has perhaps become one way to search for the sacred and negotiate about the existential questions that the church perhaps hasn’t been able to give the young adults an adequate answer to (see for example Religion and Popular Music in Europe: New Expressions of Sacred and Secular Identity. Ed. Kahn-Harris et al. 2011). Isn’t it so that Jesus said “… if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out” (Luke 19:40). He didn’t mean the Rolling Stones, did he? Yet in the transformation of religiousness music can be one medium to create the bridge to the sacred.

Go ahead and try to listen to for example the music of relaxdaily, if you already haven’t done so, and let it speak to your heart. Does it feel spiritual? Even if it doesn’t, I can recommend it to you for purely secular reasons, if you are a student, a doctoral student, a researcher, a lecturer, and especially if you are a professor, based on the comment of Grace Fields’:

Grace Fields 9 months ago
42:0052:00. I was writing a document paper on religion vs. spirituality and this part of the track gave me life!!! I wish my Prof. could listen while he grades my paper! I believe my grade would be supernatural!!!
Sarin kuva
Sari Murtonen, MTh
Doctoral student, Religious Education
Faculty of Philosophy, Department of Theology
University of Eastern Finland

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