I, much like the majority of my generation, plug myself into media whenever I get the opportunity. For some people it’s Facebook, or games, maybe television, but for me, it’s music. So when I ride the C-train home from work at night, I put my head phones on and turn them up as loud as they go. This is my time, it’s my sanctuary, allowing me to live whatever reality I see fit, be-it only for a few minutes. However when I feel a tapping on my shoulder from the women sitting next to me, what could this be? This women had heard my music from my headphones (Alt-j- Tessellate), and she felt compelled to talk to me. She had just finished her year exchange in England and had seen Alt-J play live in Leeds four times; each of which had an equally remarkable story of musical ecstasy. This was followed by the rest of our transit being filled with musical exchanges and mumbled lyrics as we tried to appear as if we knew each song the other was preaching about.
Now as heartwarming as that train ride sounded, it is not the beginning of a love story. It is rather a reaffirmation of the power of music to bridge the communicational void; and I’m talking about more than the void that exists between two people on a train. More so than ever, music has shown its ability to empower and unite people. Around the world celebrations of music are gathering millions of people and represent more nations than the Olympics. People separated by borders, religion, politics, and countless other differences, put them aside to take part in the beauty and contribute their own dynamic and style to the community music creates. It is this communal power, harnessed by the rhythmic pulsing of a crowd orchestrated by artists on a stage. It feels like its own life form representing a heartbeat – It’s a trance; it’s full of singing and dancing, both motor and gross emotional, it is culminating in a profoundly altered state of consciousness. Whilst it can be achieved by a single individual, it is amplified and facilitated in a communal group. Truly a feeling of unity and singularity. This resonates into our nature as society; the primary function of music has always been collective and communal, to bring and bind people together. It allows us to sink in and understand ourselves while also letting us reach out. In every culture people sing, dance and fall in love together over music. One can imagine them doing so around the first fires a hundred thousand years ago. This ability of music to join us has transcended time. So it is truly amazing to see this power remain a bright light in a continuingly darkening world.
20 years ago, Anthony Storr stressed in his book, Music and the Mind, that our collectiveness is lost when we have a special class of composers and performers, and the rest of us are often reduced to passive listening. One has to go to a concert, or a musical festival, to recapture the collective excitement and bonding of music. However that book was written 20 years ago. So today I couldn’t disagree more. Today everybody is an artist. Today the expansions of mediums and new genres is empowering people to express themselves through music like never possible. Producers, drummers, DJs, singers around the world are now being heard. The internet, via tools like Sound cloud and sites like it, have uncovered more talents then talent scouts ever have. More people are listening due to new mediums and the overwhelming amount of music available. While opponents of this musical explosion have claimed that the saturation of the music industry has ruined its purity. I disagree, the ability for everyone to offer a verse to the soundtrack of anyone’s life is one of the most beautiful occurrences of the modern world. This stands alone as the most hopeful sign for the future, as this great tool of unification is touching us all. I am sure of this because could anyone deny, that if the last song was to play for all eternity everyone would listen?