A few weekends ago I attended a music party in the mountains, at the ranch of long time friends who are musicians and dancers. The weekend was filled with music (rather than painting) and dancing (rather than housework or laundry).
I don’t mean we had concerts, where a few people sat on a stage and entertained us, as if they were the experts and we were the consumers. I mean we played music and danced. All of us participated.
This was conversational music. We spoke to each other using the language of jigs, reels, waltzes, and hornpipes. The accent was sometimes Irish, sometimes American, sometimes Swedish, French Canadian, or Blues. But we understood each other, or tried to understand each other, and respond in kind.
On Sunday morning some of us got together and sang old American religious tunes, gospel, and modern American Folk music.
On the long drive home I reflected that it would be very hard to attend a non-music party. I’m not sure I remember how to behave at a party where people don’t pull out fiddles, flutes, accordions, dulcimers, bagpipes, and guitars and speak to each other in the pleasant tones of a tune.
Music is communication, and can be a two-way conversation. When I pick up my flute, I’m not practicing a tune, I’m learning how to speak.