Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The music of our lives

I may be repeating myself a bit, but this has been a reoccurring theme in my mental meanderings over the last couple weeks, seemingly being re-awakened by the oddest and most unconnected group of experiences.

I was watching the introduction credits to a DVD lesson for one of my anthropology courses and it hit me just how much our opinion on something can be swayed by putting images or information about something to a soundtrack. Here were mixed images of children, families, war, faces from all over the planet, starvation, battle, and parties all mixed in, pictures that if seen normally were more than likely not of such photographic quality to elicit an emotional response from their audience. However, with music supporting them, the response was there the instant the picture became visible, maybe even before I could consciously put a name to what it was I was seeing (I hear that our brains can process much more information and at a tremendously faster rate than our conscious attention can).

How is it that we have become so culturally, or maybe as a species as a whole, trained to react to music so quickly and so strongly? My textbook tells me that there is no known culture in the world that does not have music as part of its culture in one way or another. It surrounds us to the point that many of us can discern music even from the natural cacophony of sounds of nature, we hear music where there is only natural or even man-made sounds not meant as such.

I’m not complaining, I gladly claim to have a soundtrack to my life, and will rarely be seen without music on my free-time. I sometimes even deliberately use music with the intention of getting myself into a particular mood, or out of one as the situation might warrant.

The STRENGTH of the human emotional response to music will never cease to amaze me. Many times, such as watching TV or walking into a pub, we don’t even consciously realize that music is there, around us. I have learned to accept that I will get jabbed in the side occasionally, especially during tests, because I am unaware that I am humming something.

As one of my friends mentioned haphazardly, what WOULD happen to people if there were no music? Would we all go through some kind of withdrawal? I doubt it, should the knowledge of music all of a sudden be wiped from our collective knowledge and memory banks, I suspect it would very quickly make its way back into our lives, even if only by way of some bored individual banging on something nearby and rediscovering rhythm as it were. I cannot even claim to comprehend what might happen should the knowledge of music be blocked from our cultural memories.

Sounds like a good science fiction short story idea, I wonder if anyone has done that one yet.

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