Once in a SAT retreat, Claudio Naranjo said that music had been for him a kind of mirror, especially in his childhood. It mirrored back to him a range of emotions and sensitivities that he rarely saw reflected in everyday life.

This rang bells for me. In all my years of musical life, it had never occurred to me that music was a mirror. As I considered this, I realised it was so, for me also. And this deepened my understanding of the role music had played in my life. Music, for me at least, is far, far more than “entertainment”.

In an emotionally stunted environment, and in a culture that ridiculed softer sentiments, I was starving for affirmation of my emotional life. For me childhood was a battleground where it was better to give away as little as possible. My inner world became intensely private. I didn’t want others trampling what was precious to me. As something of a misfit, I didn’t readily find companions with whom I could share my complex inner world. Adolescence magnified these difficulties, and I turned to other things to find satisfaction.

One of them was music. I already played clarinet to a high level by then, and teachers were surprised at the emotional maturity of my playing. I could bring people to the brink of tears. Having music in my life was a life-saver. My soul had an oxygen line to the surface. Finally I could breathe. With music I could express what I felt, without the encumbrance of words, without being torn apart on the war-fields of adolescence.

I also spent hours in my room listening to classical music. Here, the world opened up to me. Music showed me tenderness, joy, passion, frivolity, grief, war and peace, the sacred and the profane. It showed me expansion when mostly I felt contracted. It gave me the taste of sweetness when much of my life was bitter. I knew ecstasy in the depth of my bones. This was my education of life, my learning about people. It didn’t exactly prepare me for social interaction, and I remained socially under- developed well into my late 20s. But with music, I could dive deeply into my own soul. And somehow, this kept me connected to the human world. If humans created this music, then they too, must be souls crying out in the night.

An artist friend once said to me, that music had kept me open, some part of me at least. I thought a lot about what he said. I think what he sensed was this oxygen line from my soul to the surface of life. Yes, in this way, music saved my life. I try to imagine my life without swimming in the sea of music. But I cannot.

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