What is music?
What is music? I don’t mean the question technically, with definitions of rhythm or melody. Nor do I mean it philosophically – I have no interest in philosophy, generally deeming philosophers to be clever but bone idle people, too lazy to apply their immense brains to more purposeful activities.
No, the question arose from some observations and a quote.
I pretty much live for music. I make it, buy it, steal it, blog about it, pimp it, opine about it and even listen to it. A lot.
Recently I went through a short period when I couldn’t be bothered to put music on at home to listen to or to dial it up on my phone to provide a soundtrack to my daily commute to work. This got me worried – had I reached the age when people seem to just give up on all interest in music? In the end, I figured I was just very, cumulatively, tired from work and life in general. Sure enough, I took some time off work to rest and within a couple of days I was planning the next Secret Archives release and playing music very loudly in my flat as it was the daytime and my downstairs neighbours would be out.
Around the same time I met up with a friend who I hadn’t spoken to for about a year. He’d always been a huge music fan – we’d booked artists together and run events and he’d often played me good music he’d been listening to. When we were catching up, he mentioned that he’d completely lost all interest in music and hardly listened to any now. In the previous year he’d been through a lot of pressure with his work and told me he’d suffered some mild depression. I threw in the idea that maybe it was because of that he’d lost connection with music and that maybe as he got more settled, his interest would revive.
Well, that very evening he spent a lot of time enthusiastically playing me tunes from YouTube, confirming my suspicion that losing interest in music is often connected with tiredness, depression and a general loss of the joie de vivre.
The next week I caught an episode of an American TV series called The History of Rock’n’Roll. Americans, of course, use the term to mean ‘all music after 1952’, so the series covered hiphop and other styles as well as rock. One snippet caught my attention. It was the legendary Joe Strummer:
‘I think Rock n Roll, or hiphop, exists to deliver this truth that needs to be constantly delivered…. It reminds us, like this unspoken message is that, it is FUN to be alive…. It’s a hell of a lot better than being dead’
And that, my friends, sums what I’d been pondering and trying to grasp. Music is a celebration of being alive. That explains why, when we’re tired or struggling with life, it can be hard to get excited about music. But, at the end of the day, it’s better being alive than being dead!