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“Music is the language we choose when we are speechless.”

A speech by Karl Paulnack about the importance of the arts was recently shared with me, and I think it is absolutely essential for everyone to take just a few minutes to hear what he had to say.

I will only share a few of the most impactful quotes and passages, but I highly encourage reading through the transcription of the speech (linked below). Paulnack says that, “music illuminates relationships between invisible, internal, transient objects… our hearts and souls.” He then references the pervasiveness of music among prisoners in Nazi concentration camps- if they were just barely surviving there, then why, he asks, would they take the energy and time to produce music? It is because music is a part of survival, Paulnack concludes.


With today being the 20th anniversary of 9/11, I think it’s important that I highlight the other example of music being essential that Paulnack used. As a musician living in NYC during the attacks, he noticed that music was the very first way that people came together that night: singing songs like “We Shall Overcome” but also elementary school tunes, just for the feeling of being together and sharing in something that lifts us up and heals us. Over the past twenty years, we have seen memorials and ceremonies for the victims and heroes of 9/11, all of which are punctuated by music. The reason for this is, as Paulnack says, “Music is the language we choose when we are speechless.”


Karl Paulnack’s speech is poignant, powerful, and the absolute truth. Music is not optional for human survival, and, for this reason, it is my hope to continue sharing music with everyone in my community.


Link to speech: https://mtprof.msun.edu/Fall2009/music.html


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