Music Musings


Music: an artistic form of auditory communication incorporating instrumental or vocal tones in a structured and continuous manner

Most people, and apparently some animals, seem to enjoy listening to music of various types. There are many kinds of music around the world and even within the same country. I'm not certain of it, but I suspect that due to the United State's ethnic and cultural diversity we have access to perhaps one of the widest selections of music to be found in any single country.

I think music stimulates us at a different emotional level than most of our sensory inputs do, and apparently, music has a different meaning to different people. I think a lot of pop music encompassing most rock and rap music appeals more on a socio-cultural level, typically among young people. This music seems to stimulate a sense of belonging to a particular social group who even identify each other in terms of what musical groups they like.

To me, a lot of pop music sounds angry and shouts outrage and rejection of the impositions conveyed by the culture of older people. When we're young, we don't like to accept ideas we don't fully understand. We want to change everything. When we can't change it, we shout out our anger, some of it in the form of rock and rap. Also, it is important that this music is newly created within the socio-cultural group it appeals to. Music from the "outside" just wouldn't be cool. After all, that would be music from the people whose culture is being rejected.

I have noticed another socio-cultural phenomenon in which a lot of people become excited and seem to experience an 'emotional high' from the experience of being immersed in a dense crowd and lambasted by exceedingly loud and frenetic music. Meaningful conversation is impossible, and repeated exposure to this environment is almost certainly detrimental to a person's hearing. I'm not referring to the relatively loud levels that can be generated by a large symphony orchestra or big band. I'm referring to sounds that have been amplified by monster amplifiers and speaker systems. My own reaction to this is to bolt for the door and remove myself from the situation as quickly as possible. Staying around that sort of situation is almost exactly as pleasant to me as continuously hitting my thumb with a hammer, so obviously, I don't really understand this form of entertainment.

I'm not so satisfied with the state of our culture either, but rock and rap don't express my own feelings about it. I prefer to dwell on the good and beautiful things I see and hear. Life is too short to burn it up in anger.

Another form of music that is obviously very popular, especially in North America, is Country music. I think there is a large component of socio-cultural identity associated with this music. Country music seems to emphasize identification with an image of our frontier days when men had to be self sufficient and extract a livelihood from an unforgiving land. They had to be strong, competent, and independent. In a way, life was simple then, not all cluttered up with a lot of social levels and associated expectations. Country music seems to invite the "common man" who doesn't put on airs about being above others. It tends to convey a simplistic view of life and the trials and tribulations of ordinary folks.

I think some Country music is humorous, and some of it is poetic and beautiful, but frankly most of it is boring to me. I think it is interesting that to be a country singer, you really need to have a good southern accent. It is one of the indications of this music stating a social condition that usually seems to exclude a strong intellectual component. However, I know many very intellectual people who speak with a southern accent, but don't necessarily seek out Country music. Interesting...

My father loved classical music, and he especially loved Opera. He nearly decided to become an Opera singer when he was a young man. He was sort of the opposite of the "common man", and he enjoyed associating with people of wealth and power. A lot of Opera music was written during times when there were very stratified class levels among people, and Opera was written for the upper class. I think that Opera is an art form that emphasizes "high culture" and contains a lot of pomp; just the opposite of Country music.

I don't personally enjoy listening to a lot of Opera, but I certainly am impressed by the wonderful voice skills developed by most Opera singers. The level of difficulty of the art and the amount of training and dedication to its study and practice to become a successful Opera singer is certainly impressive. I think it is even more difficult than becoming a popular Country music singer!

I relate most strongly to Jazz music and to instrumental Classical music. I learned to play the piano by the "Chord Method" when I was around 14 years old, and that led me into improvisational jazz piano music. I enjoy Classical music too, but I never acquired the training to play it. Now that I have retired I am trying to correct that deficiency.

I think that Jazz and instrumental Classical music are less associated with sociological group identity than Pop or Country music and appeal more directly to the emotions and intellect of a wide range of listener age and socio-economic groups. Unfortunately, a lot of Jazz and Classical music tends to be esoteric and require a fair amount of exposure and experience to be fully appreciated. Sadly, this leads to a smaller audience and less financial reward for its practitioners. I think this  is an unfortunate reflection upon our culture. Too few people seem to think for themselves. We have to be willing to try out new foods often enough to develop appreciation for those that don't immediately appeal to our most immediate and simplistic reactions.

This Page last modified on Monday, September 18, 2006