W. A. Mathieu is a composer, pianist, and teacher whose musical career spans five decades. He is the author of three other books including The Musical Life (1994). In this erudite and thought-provoking collection of essays on music, he begins with the following:
"Because music is both embodied and free-flowing energy, it has the capacity to connect thing to thing, body to body, mind to mind, heart to heart, spirit to spirit. Neither heaven nor earth, it is the middle way, a wave bridge between nameable and nameless, between relative and absolute, thinking and feeling, the grammar of language and the cadences of the sea. It weaves the world together in an energetic web. You can be anywhere in the weave you want — all you have to do to get there is to listen for it."
Mathieu contends that sex and music are family. They both elicit strong reactions in the body and can put us in a trance that is enthralling. Music also appeals to the mind through pulse, meter, tone, and harmony. Under the same thematic umbrella, the author writes: "Polyphony is the most intimate and comforting way I have of being with my own high mind, and I wish it for you and everyone alive." Mathieu salutes music as the enchantment of pure feeling and probes it as the wordless language that integrates the territories of the mind and the heart.
In a compelling section of the book, we learn that the give-and-take of music is a model of harmonious living. Mathieu is awed by all the different stories (think of music as a movie score, as ballet program, or as biography) that can emanate from this art form. And even more astonishing is music's ability to mirror our minds, our behaviors, and our evolution. Mathieu's sharing of his Sufi appreciation of music is especially enlightening.
In the last section of the book, the author observes: "Music is the throne of our kind, empowering us to appreciate how tiny we are, and how vast. I want you to have clear access to music's powers and, most of all, to recognize them as your own." Mathieu more than accomplishes his goal of showing us many different ways of appreciating and listening to music.