By Michael Mandeville ’11
I don’t remember the last time I went a day without engaging music in one way or another.
Though I serve as a relatively biased example considering music is what I do and know best, I can’t help but believe most people encounter music daily, whether or not they acknowledge it.
The reason for this is quite simple. Music plays such a dynamic role in our culture and, arguably, our nature as well, a role that is unavoidable.
We have such a dependence on music as entertainment, a stress regulator or, more interestingly, an eliminator of silence.
If this rendezvous is not instigated by your own will (recreational listening, playing an instrument, etc.), you encounter music everywhere you turn: stores, restaurants, video games, school activities and so forth.
Take a moment and reflect on the last time you went anywhere without bumping shoulders with music regardless of the acknowledgement that occurred. You just can’t.
Does that not bother you? Think of yourself in a retail store or café, only accompanied by a few other individuals from employees to other customers. If there wasn’t anything breaking the silence, the tension would become, well, awkward.
This perhaps subconscious use of music might suggest something about what our society and generation has done to music.
There certainly is still value in music, both artistic and sociological, but there is absolutely the possibility that we’ve assigned another duty to music: noise filler.
Without the noise, we rarely know what to do. Walk around campus at any point throughout the school day and count the number of people wired to headphones plugged into music.
So have people, in general, lost sight of what music should be, a release for recreation or meditation, or a dose of culture and art? Not exactly.
The purpose behind music’s ambient, space-creating, tension-lessening role in everything from restaurants to waiting rooms is something of an interesting subject. However, outside these ambiguous functions, music does seem to be moving in a relatively good direction.
Convenience in distribution, production and accessibility has gone through the roof with technology, allowing just about anyone to make and find music.
The escalading popularity of independent music has a good portion of thanks to give to technology and the Internet, but it is also because alternative and creative culture seems to be exploding among trends and people.
A lot of the times, popular music dominates the images and opinions about music’s general status, usually getting some sort of flack and criticism in relation to commercial versus artistic value and social influence (among a variety of other aspects).
Yet behind Mother Monster Gaga, Kanye and that one band with the song in “Rock Band 2” (Creep? Is that it?), lays immense progression and artistic expression.
When Jay-Z is continuously shouting out to “The Grizzly Bears,” as well as publicly stating independent music as the future; “The Suburbs,” I mean, Arcade Fire, is winning Grammys; Gaga is wearing outfits that leave even the avant-garde school confused; and Radiohead can release an album completely in binary code with people still going crazy over it, you can’t help but consider that someone is going to catch onto this as a trend.
But maybe people are simply becoming more appreciative of music in general. We’ve been swamped with redundancy throughout the early 2000s, and obviously someone acknowledged it promptly, instigating some sort of reaction.
So, yes, go out this weekend with your girlfriend and you will probably hear Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody” at least five times every hour, but go to their concert afterwards and experience the 15,000 people singing their hearts out when it begins regardless of your opinions of them (not too high with me).
Music is changing, like it always has, and though it is everywhere, that just allows for the possibility of more people appreciating it.