In my first post on this subject, Horn Playing as a Spiritual Activity, I addressed the fact that many musicians have at least thought about a connection between playing a wind instrument and spiritual activity or discipline. Today I’d like to touch on a key truth that we should all understand as horn players..
- Breathing is more than a physical reality.
- Breathing is most certainly physical, but that doesn’t make it any less spiritual.
Every single one of us has breath and the ability to breathe because we received it. We did not create ourselves and fill ourselves with breath, nor do we conjure up breath on our own. As horn players, we should never take for granted that we have the incalculably valuable ability not just to breathe, but take deep, long, and powerful breaths capable of powering lengthy phrases and lofty melodies through our instruments.
If you have ever been incredibly ill, or maybe you have severe asthma, you just might have had a glimpse of what it could feel like to be without this precious gift (even if only partially or for a moment) . Breath is an essential for what we do, it’s an essential for life, and it’s also a gift of grace that could be here today and gone tomorrow.
From the beginning, life was given to us with the precious gift of a breath. This breath was given to us by a Creator whose Spirit is the source of both our life and breath. It is powerful and important to reflect on the fact that the Hebrew word used to describe the Spirit of God that moved over the face of the earth and breathed life in to humankind is the same word often used to describe breath and life.
So, with every breath that we inhale or exhale we are involved in what is both a physical and a spiritual activity. Important note, we are not breathing in God or anything like that. We will discuss what horn playing as a spiritual activity is NOT in a later post, but breathing in or out is both a physical and spiritual activity because we are exercising the gift of the Spirit of God (both originally and at that moment). The great philosopher and theologian Jonathan Edwards captured this staggering thought like this:
“Our breath to support life [is] a representation of our dependence on the Spirit of God for spiritual life.”
How often do you slow down, in practice, in recording, or in presentation of your music, just to breathe and reflect on the gift of life and breath you have been given?
Numerous musician-writers on meditation and music have touched on the importance of slowing down and giving special and careful attention and reflection to our breathing. Tuned In explores this even deeper, but next time you prepare to make music, I would even suggest every time you do; spend time patiently reflecting on your dependence on the Spirit, and breathe.