Music matters

Over at A Bit More Detail, I wrote about the way in which French pop star Mylène Farmer’s song “C’est une belle journée” is a song that defines quite strongly the end of one period of my life and the beginning of another, separating the time I lived in relative isolation on Prince Edward Island from the time I lived in a significantly more connected way “on the mainland.” Music tends do to that for me, actually, marking significant points in my life whether times of transition or particularly strong experiences or simply feelings of nostalgia (or something else, maybe).

Music matters. Music is a badge of identity; think of the ways in which disco music was associated with the gay clubs of the 1970s, or heavy metal with rebellious teenagers in the 1980s, or grunge or boy bands in the 1990s. Music is a basic element of human cognition; music is processed by many of the same systems in the brain that serve language, indeed boosting language skills, with music training even aiding memory and speech and second-language acquisition. Music is one of the key cultural elements of globalization; popular music can easily translate across borders, especially the popular music of megastars like Madonna or Bruce Springsteen or U2 or Lady Gaga, and it can inspire efforts to protect domestic music through means like the radio airtime quotas in Canada and France.

For me, popular music is one of the ways I tried to be connected with the wider world while I lived in Prince Edward Island, a way to participate vicariously in the various national and transnational communities of music fans (Charlottetown isn’t a major destination for touring groups).

And you?

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One Response to Music matters

  1. Matt McIrvin says:

    A few days ago, I looked at the unofficial They Might Be Giants wiki during a brief period when some jerk had vandalized it with a hoax report of John Linnell’s death. Before I figured out that it was bogus, it hit me surprisingly hard, like a gut punch. I don’t think of myself as a big pop-music fan, but Linnell and John Flansburgh have probably given me more genuine joy than any other two human beings I don’t actually know.

    There’s listening to music, and there’s making it. I was never a musical person at all until I married a musician and then we had a kid who’s interested in music. Now I’m slowly learning the guitar. I have no delusions that I’ll ever be as good at it as a professional or even a serious hobbyist, but it’s so much fun learning to play simple little songs and starting to understand how music works. It’s a whole other aspect I hadn’t really experience before.

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