We meet again; back to the question that I am circling around. I still don’t have the exact answer. But, I do know of the answers I don’t find truly justify myself and are the easy go-to’s. They answer it so easily and simply that it can’t be the only answer.
I don’t want the answers that fit into the perfect little boxes, and tick the boxes in the right way that provide the “ah-hah!” answers:
- “Science proves that singing in choirs helps release feel-good hormones!”
- “Studying Mozart makes you better at math!”
Yes, yes. We know these things, and I’m not saying these things aren’t important. However, how do we go through each and every day nearly unable to hear at least one piece of music? How is it to powerful? What exactly is it, that draws on us so profoundly?
In our world, could you go through one day without hearing music? Why? Why does it permeate every inch of our culture and existence in the Western world, and how do we still not understand the mysterious pull of music? We know what it does, we know it’s good. Even personally for myself, though, I want to know why I keep doing it. I want to know what my motivation is and why we’re so intrinsically drawn to music; what about music reveals to us our own narrative, and for musicians, what about music shapes our narrative? Is there a gene that affects musical and creative types?
Something about music defines us, tells us our story and makes a profound impact on our direct experience of the world, and it has been doing this for thousands of years. In Plato’s Republic, Socrates and Glaucon deliberated at length about their concern of the influence of music over young men in society – even the type of modes and rhythms, and how this would seemingly influence the actions of these young and impressionable men. They believed that the ancient Greek modes were so powerful that they influenced certain accents:
“I don’t know the modes, ” I said. “Just leave that mode which would appropriately imitate the sounds and accents of a man who is courageous in warlike deeds and every violent work, and who in failure or when going to face wounds or death or falling into some other disaster, in the face of all these things stands up firmly and patiently against chance. And, again, leave another mode for a man who performs a peaceful deed, one that is not violent but voluntary, either persuading someone of something and making a request – whether a god by prayer or a human being by instruction or exhortation – or, on the contrary, holding himself in check for someone else who makes a request or instructs him or persuades him to change, and as a result acting intelligently, not behaving arrogantly, but in all these things acting moderately and in measure and being content with the consequences…” – The Republic of Plato, translated by Allan Bloom (p. 77-78)
Music has been influencing us for thousands of years. These are questions we continually ask; or, do we take it for granted and just accept that music influences our actions without asking why? I continue to ask why.