If music be the food of love, play on.” In these words, Shakespeare immortalizes the relationship between music and love. I have seen individuals with no musical disposition suddenly immersing themselves passionately into music because they have found (or think they have found), a soul mate. Nevertheless, music pleases the heart, soothes nerves and titillates senses in a way no words can adequately describe. It is to this world of the seven notes that I am dedicating this week’s column - as a tribute to those who create music and those who bring it to our lives.

There was a time when a child’s first venture into the world of sound, was a mother’s singing; that almost extinct art of the lullaby. Myself, I have a faint recollection of being tucked into bed to the soothing strains of, “Chanda Mama dur ke, pooay packaen boor ke,” (I have yet to discover the meaning of the word ‘boor’), and so on. Often, I have toyed with the notion that perhaps the children exposed most to the magic of the lullaby, are the ones who love music intensely and go on to choose music as their art when they are grown. I include myself among them, along with many friends and relatives, who are living proof of this phenomenon; that perhaps, the beloved associations and lost memories of early childhood, never really leave us at all.

I was ten years old when I first set eyes on Ayub Rumani, the boss of all musical programs in Radio Pakistan Lahore. Mr. Rumani and my late father were friends and I was dragged along into the company of the former by my father in a somewhat successful attempt to keep me out of mischief. For the next six years, I became part of a happy go lucky group of dedicated professionals who made radio what it is today.

It was during this period that I came across musical greats like Baray Ghulam Ali Khan, Raees Khan, Roshanara Begum and Siraj Ahmed Kureshi. While I was still young and overwhelmed by the talent of these stars, Siraj Ahmed Kureshi, who also taught Sitar at the Lahore Arts Council, often came to our home to perform in front of a select group of listeners. These recitals were an event that we all looked forward to; it was obvious being in the presence of Kureshi Sahib even as a young boy, that not only was he a master of his art, he was also a wonderful human being.

My relationship with music was fuelled further by the lessons of an imposing woman we called, ‘Mem sahib,’ in private, but who answered to the name of Miss J Eddowes. Born and bred in England, this remarkable musician moved to Pakistan and began to teach music to children like myself. It was she who introduced me to the marvel of Bach, Beethoven and Johann Strauss. Because of her, I mastered the piano as well as the electronic keyboard. Through her passionate love of music, classical symphonies remain to this day, the most treasured part of my music collection.

In 1979, I met a Dutch brother and sister in Quetta who possessed extraordinary musical talent. Though visually impaired, the young man created beautiful music by stroking the rims of crystal glasses filled with differing levels of water. When I first heard one of their recordings, I assumed it was an outstanding violin solo, and was left speechless when I finally witnessed the incredible art and subtlety with which they created the music in concert. The depth and harmony of their creation astounded me, and I marvelled, as I always do, at the ability of music to transform us, to transform our spaces, our grief and stories into poetry. We begin to engage with ourselves and the world differently in the company of music; all things acquire a dimension that is in equal parts gentle, vulnerable and possessed by truth.

At least on one occasion, I have seen music being used as a therapeutic tool to calm a violent psychiatric patient. There are various studies, for example, on the use of music to engage with autistic individuals, and with children with severe learning disabilities. It is a universal language; the honesty of it transcends beyond the listener’s experience. In fact, music is used even to encourage the growth of some plants. Surely then, like love, there are mysteries inside the equations of music that we will never know of. And perhaps, like love’s own veils, it is best that the real secrets of the seven notes are kept from us.

The writer is a historian.