Saturday, February 1, 2014

Why is music important?

Hi sweet friends, 
To commemorate my 100th post here on hippie-espionage (!), I thought I would write a few words about music itself.  I've been thinking a lot about the nature of my relationship with music recently - a solitary experience, a link to the past, its incredible healing powers...

Certain songs or types of music holds a powerful evocation for many of us.  Why is that, and how do we use it to our advantage?  The pathways that link auditory processing and memory in our brains have not been fully elucidated, but I offer a plausible, non-scientific explanation drawn from my own experience.

I've never lived on the West Coast.  I have no ties to midwestern county fairs, and have no cousins who wield a banjo.  So why do I feel as if I deeply reconnect to my roots every time I listen to the  Grateful Dead, the type of music one might hear at the Orgeon County Fair?

It's certainly not a universal phenomenon.  Somehow, my brain has decided that this type of music is extremely comforting, even though others (hi, Mom) may put it last on their list.  My explanation is simple: I feel as if I'm returning to roots because, in a way, I am.  Although I can't recall every specific instance of exposure to the band, my brain evokes feelings of comfort and happiness associated with that music because it was the soundtrack to my happy childhood.

I often wonder how many people connect to music in this way.  As I've made my way through high school and college, I have yet to connect with someone deeply about the music they love.  Then again, sometimes I wonder if everyone feels this kind of visceral connection to a genre of music, and if I just happen to materialize it in my mind more often than others (hey peeps, you out there?).

Because of this, I find that most times, music is a source of solitary enjoyment.  If every person has a complex and incomparable (and often inexplicable) connection with music, then how can anyone connect with another on the topic of music beyond a superficial surface?  We can analyze the heck out of something, but in the end, I truly believe that everyone experiences music differently.

In this, it seems we are uniquely alone.

There are wonderful events in which we congregate to celebrate our love of music.  I have dedicated my blog to chronicling just a few of the many of these experiences.  And while I've always felt a little detached from the rest of the crowd (imagine an 8 year old standing on her seat at a Phil Lesh show), it seems that everyone uses concerts as a venue for something special to them...I'll never forget the artist wearing a miner's helmet who set up a canvas behind me in Hartford during the August 2000 Phil Lesh & Friends show my dad took me to.  He painted to the music; created art from art.  It was a totally different way of experiencing the show, and it was totally beautiful.

So if music has the power to bring back awesome and happy memories, why do we always seek new  material?  My answer to that may not be so informed, but from what I can tell, pop music usually reflects a cultural climate.  (Also, it's a multi-billion dollar industry that America has by the neck, but that's another story).  As a young person, it is exciting to see pop artists produce music that makes a statement about new emerging values and experiences that people of my generation experience.  (And again, it's also most likely directly marked to people like me, so there you have it.) 

Thanks for bearing with me, everybody.  I haven't fully explored everything that's been percolating in my mind yet, so perhaps there will be a second installment to my music and sociology cultural analysis series (can you tell I'm in a liberal arts environment?).  And now, back to your regularly scheduled programming...

Peace, love, and ginger root,

1 comment:

  1. Nice analysis,Elizabeth! A correction about not having banjo-wielding cousins, though… they do, in fact, exist. Well, not actually cousins, but second cousins (once removed?) and they are very good. You will have to meet them sometime./Mom