Music As Thin Places

Have you ever heard of a “thin place”? It’s been described as a place where the distance between heaven and earth collapses, a thinning of the veil between the physical world and the spiritual realm.  I think it actually has Celtic roots and can mean different things to many people. For me, the phrase is being claimed to name those moments in life when you feel like you need to take off your shoes for holy ground has materialized beneath you.

Music often ushers me into this kind of “thin place” and I am in no way musically inclined. It’s why they give Academy Awards for Song and Score. There is story weaved into lyrics and melody, symphony and tunes. Music has this way of adding heft and substance to a story line. It is difficult to describe the visceral effect of music and its intertwining of our stories, but here is a story example as an attempt.

We were planning our move from Texas to Kansas and after a week spent house hunting, interviews with schools, and meeting so many new faces, emotion was floating on the edges of my eyes.  A dinner invitation to the home of my husband’s new boss forced those emotions back down to be dealt with later.  At the conclusion of the evening, questions were asked about the beautiful grand piano situated in the living room. It had been a 40th birthday gift to our hostess and she agreed to play us a song before we left.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow began to usher me into what I later recognize and delightfully name a “thin place”. The melancholy sounds coming from this beautiful black piano caused time to slow and my senses to heighten. It was like I was suspended above the scene, watching and preserving the memory. The irony of our move to Kansas colliding with the story behind this song was almost too much. My throat constricted in an effort not to become a blubbering idiot.  That was 8 years ago. I still play back those 5 minutes as a special gift of God’s confirming nod to the move we were about to make. It was a thinning of the veil between the two of us.

It happened with this song again just recently. We were back in Texas at a fundraising dinner for Disability Resources, an organization that helps developmentally disabled adults reach their full potential. Entertainment included the Bell Peppers, a hand bell choir made up of the group’s “folks”.  It was sweet. That is until they began to play Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Then it quickly turned into a holy moment, a thin place once again. Those faces, so uniquely special combined with the back story of this song went straight past rational thoughts to stir my heart to tears.

Music as story. It cannot be denied.

I wonder if I’m the only one that sometimes has a song or soundtrack going on in my head for a particular day or even season of life?  At times I wish this internal playlist were audible to the world around, to communicate to others what was going on in my head, what I was thinking and feeling without me having to verbalize it.  Like we could just say, “Hear that? Yes, THAT is my story.”

After her freshman year in college, our daughter burned a CD of some new music she’d discovered.  It was fascinating to listen to the lyrics and sounds of her life away from home. I learned more about what was important to her heart than I could have from a simple conversation. It was a glimpse into an independent life.

Yes, music is a gift from our storyteller. Pay attention to the music that comes your way.  Pay attention to the music that your children cherish. Seek out songs that echo your story.  Allow them to usher you to a “thin place”.

(Just finished reading Mary DeMuth’s memoir, Thin Places. Interesting read!)

5 thoughts on “Music As Thin Places

  1. Agreed! Certain songs take me back to specific places and moments in time. Good reminder to be careful what my kids listen to!

  2. So good. Just read this morning sentiments from a mother who lost her daughter three weeks ago about a song that was given to her right when she came to a significant location on a road that let her know her daughter was rejoicing in heaven and wanting her to dance. Songs…..yes, thin places……..God speaking.

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