What's So Great About Music? Finale.


I was running errands the other day and noticed an interesting thing. I stopped for gas, bought a Starbucks coffee, and picked up a couple packages at the Amazon pick-up location; and not once did I have to speak with any humans. If I hadn't stopped at Snappy Wash and had to pay the cashier, my solitude would have maintained. Through this, I was reminded of some recent studies that have passed by my eyes while reading my dailies that have talked about how disconnected and lonely Americans feel these days... more than ever before, they say. Then I got home and crawled in front of my computer and started the process all over again. I quickly realized there was a deafening silence in my studio, so I grabbed a CD to put on. I like albums. I enjoy the on-going journey of the artist or group, the story they tell intentionally or not, and the continuity of a familiar vocal and/or instrumental style. I choose albums to listen to much like I pick a playlist; based on my mood or emotional needs in the moment. Now my space is not so empty. The voluminous sound of music fills my ears and keeps me motivated and working happily on the non-musical end of my work.


Music wasn't available in recorded format just slightly more than 100 years ago. So, prior to that, we were only allowed music through its use in ceremony, in work songs, at live paid performances, courtesy of traveling troubadours, or thanks to the efforts of whomever in our household or group of friends might have a talent for it. This means that we most likely went without the enjoyment of music far more often than we do today. Once recorded music came into being, everything changed. At first, most people couldn't afford the equipment needed to play it. But gradually it came into the mainstream and eventually entered every facet of our lives. Now, it's attached to everything we own and accessible everywhere we go. Can you imagine going your entire workday without once hearing a song? What would happen to the mood of your favorite restaurant if they had no music piping in? Would you find walks and jogs as interesting without music in your earbuds? I suppose some of us could do without the musical choices in some places; the mall or our dentist's office, perhaps?


When communities were smaller and more tightly and immediately connected, and the world was mostly very far away and less accessible, we had less music in our lives. Now, as our communities have in many ways dissolved or at the very least gone into constant flux or are mostly digital, and the world has become very small and can be found at the other end of our internet connection, we can hardly live without music. When we experience a bad day, we don't even have to wait until we're home to enjoy our best musical choice to contend with it. And there, at our fingertips, our best friend music enters our space to satiate our emotional needs in the here and now... hear and now.


As a musical artist and a male, I suspect one of the main reasons I picked up guitar initially was to "get chics," but it didn't take long for me to experience the exciting and more affective ways it allowed me to express things; Things that I otherwise constantly stumbled over in an awkward voice full of emotive disfluencies, and painful twitches of the head. As my efforts and their effects grew into the realization that artists are a channel for others' emotional needs and a necessary therapeutic tool, I came to understand how important the listener is. What's so great about music for me? You!


As I've continued my own education nonstop through my life and sought out more stories and truths about music and humanity, I've also found that the questions grow deeper and more numerous. I also keep finding some answers in the maelstrom. Music keeps becoming the eye of the storm. It keeps grounding me. It keeps whispering answers in my ear, and quite poetically.


Joseph Campbell said in The Power of Myth, that "the real artist is one who can recognize and render what Joyce has called the 'radiance' of all things, as an epiphany or showing forth of their truth." He also stated in the same series of interviews that "The artist is the one who communicates myth for today," and that music brings us "closest to our gods."


In further reference to the spiritual world we've heard from Bach; "The sole purpose of music is to glorify God," and Beethoven (who was practically declared a heretic): "Music is God speaking through us." And the Buddhist scholar Daisaku Ikeda said the following:
"The poetic spirit encourages people in all ranks and places to return to their naked humanity. Neither sentimental nor fantastic, it embraces and affirms the whole world and its inhabitants; It imparts the will to remain optimistic and unbending in the face of all hardships."


I have that last one hanging on my wall and I quote regularly the previous bits. I'm also about to jump into a book called Reaching Beyond: Improvisations on Jazz, Buddhism, and a Joyful Life, by Herbie Hancock, Daisaku Ikeda, and Wayne Shorter. I expect it will require a couple reads at the very least. That's what I do when something slaps me upside the brain; I read it again and again. I think I've read The Power of Myth a dozen times.


I've just finished my second run through the book Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari, and I'm now tackling his newest one, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. He speaks from an anthropological standpoint about humans and our impact on our world and each other. Something he continues to discuss is the globalization of our politics and economics. He mentions that anthropologists see three unifying factors for humankind, for good or bad. These unifying influences are, according to Harari et al, and in order of their power to influence: Money, Empire, and Religion. I would add one more: Music.


What's so great about music? In a world that has lost so much of its intimacy and where we often lament the dissolution of the family units and close knit communities, and where everything has become so immediate as technology pushes overwhelming amounts of information in our faces every day, we have one very positive unifying factor. It's the one that you'd be hard put to see a downside for. It's music. And its use is spreading into the emotional spaces in our lives more widely than ever. It's as if it's a living breathing benevolence that knows we need it. But, we create it. We just might save our world with it. What do you say we give it a try? You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.


Peace and music,












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