Adoration, Beatles, catechesis, Catholic, cinema, Curtis Stephen, Grateful Dead, In Paradisum, Matt Maher, meet them where they are, memory, ministry, movie, movie ministry, Music, new vs old, relationships, Storytelling, The Music Never Stopped
Have you ever thought about a soundtrack to your life? What do you think of when you hear a wedding march? What about when you hear Taps? What about if I started singing “Soft kitty, warm kitty..?” All those songs have a particular meaning or memory attached to them. I remember one particular song from my grandfather’s funeral and I have to choke back tears every time I hear it. How did you decide what the first song you would dance to with your new husband / wife? Why is that dance so important – how has that tradition lasted so long when so many other wedding traditions have been deemed passe?I don’t remember ever seeing a trailer for The Music Never Stopped, but this is one to catch if you missed it the first time through. In the story, a phone call reunites a couple (Henry & Helen Sawyer) with their son, Gabriel, who had walked out about 20 years prior. When they meet him, he has a brain tumor and had been living on the streets for some time. The tumor is benign, but since it had gone untreated so long, his brain is damaged, preventing him from making memories.
Gabriel appears to be living in a nearly comatose state and only seems to be able to communicate using rhymes and songs. So Henry enlists a Music Therapist to help Gabriel using the music he thinks Gabriel should respond to. What happens next is that Gabriel responds to a different tune more consistent with his adolescent years. In grappling with that Henry learns how to interact with his son in a new way – and even create new memories! If you’re a “Dead Head,” a fan of the Beatles, Buffalo Springfield or any other similar bands of that era, you’ll be in Heaven musically!
So what can we take from The Music Never Stopped? This family is all about music. Henry is a big fan of Count Basie, Bing Crosby and classical music. He raised Gabriel with an appreciation of this music, quizzing him on artists, years, and stories behind each song or why it is important to their family story. Gabriel learned a lot while listening to all those greats. In this case, music was used to help learn facts – not just through the music, but about the music and about their family. Music was a way to open a conversation until they no longer had the same music in common.
In his teens, Gabriel joined a band and his musical tastes changed. To Henry, this divides them. He no longer has the common music bond to keep the conversation running. He actually blames the music for his son’s rebellion. Helen however, listens to Gabriel’s music as it reminds her of when he played in the band (before his illness), and helps her remember what he was like then. Again, memories are attached to the music, a common theme throughout the movie.
We see Gabriel come alive when the right sort of music is played. For Gabriel, that means the Grateful Dead, the Beatles, and many others. Henry’s frustrations and fears of the time when Gabriel left all come back with a fury and he’s ready to give up on the whole thing. However, he finally learns that in order to reach his son, and bridge the gap that forced their family division, he will have to give Gabe’s music a shot. He lets Gabriel explain to him the meaning behind the lyrics and the relationship begins to bloom.
Mass music is a constant debate around my work these days. Many of our youth are begging for more contemporary music while right now, the only book they are allowed to use only has a handful of tunes more recent than 1980. For some, that’s “contemporary,” but not for these kids who were all born after 1990. I consider myself a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to Mass – however now that we have a Latin Mass here, according to them I’m a liberal, but that’s a whole other issue. But regardless, I do find that many of the old traditional tunes very moving. I get goose bumps every time I hear the traditional Ave Maria. However, I’ve also found several contemporary tunes that move me. So, it’s a debate of old verses new. Is there a right or wrong? To some, there’s only one way. But, to me, it’s an opportunity to teach. Start with where they are, meet them on their level, but then bring in some of the old, help them gain an appreciation for it. You can’t force it… but you can work things in. As it is, many contemporary Catholic artists are using some of the old with a slight twist – what a great way to start bridging the gap. Check out Matt Maher’s Adoration or Curtis Stephen’s In Paradisum if you want to see examples of what I’m talking about.
So back to my original question: What is the soundtrack to your life? Do you try to listen to what your children, students or others are listening to, or do you block it all out? I encourage everyone to do the same thing with music that I’m trying to do with film – reach people!
Another question: We see Gabriel learning to interact and retain memories using music. Do we use music enough in Catechesis? If you don’t use music, did this movie help convince you how it can help? I always liked to use it to help introduce or reinforce a topic. How many us remember the Preamble to the Constitution thanks to School House Rock? Sadly, I can only recite the Prayer of St. Francis if I sing it in my head (or out loud)… But also, knowing some people are not so moved by music, what other methods can we use to help make learning stick? Check out materials on Multiple Intelligences! You’d be surprised how much it can help!
The Music Never Stopped is rated PG. It’s not something little ones would be interested in, but is clean and great for opening discussion about music, but most importantly – what moves us!!
For more information about The Music Never Stopped check out: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1613062/