In the Tales of the Boyhood of Fionn¹, there is an interesting debate among Fionn and his friends as to what was the finest music in the world:
“Tell us that,” said Fionn turning to Oisi’n [pronounced Usheen]
“The cuckoo calling from the tree that is highest in the hedge,” cried his merry son.
“A good sound,” said Fionn. “And you, Oscar,” he asked, “what is to your mind the finest of music?”
“The top of music is the ring of a spear on a shield,” cried the stout lad.
“It is a good sound,” said Fionn. And the other champions told their delight; the belling of a stag across water, the baying of a tuneful pack heard in the distance, the song of a lark, the laugh of a gleeful girl, or the whisper of a moved one.
“They are good sounds all,” said Fionn.
“Tell us, chief,” one ventured, “what you think?”
“The music of what happens,” said great Fionn, “that is the finest music in the world.”
To me this seems to be talking about living in the moment – the ability to really experience what is happening around us and within us at any moment. In my tradition that is the first step on the path: try to observe what is happening. In other words, listen to the finest music.
There’s an interesting article on this in A Vital Recognition, which first drew my attention to Fionn’s words.
¹ The story comes from the second part of James Stephens’ book Irish Fairy Tales. I’ve not been able to find any earlier references to this, so I’m not sure if it comes from an older tradition.