It’s a pretty uninspired question to ask someone if they like music. Of course, I do. Would you also like to confirm whether I’m a fan of water, liking the weather (cloudy at the time of writing) or a big believer in my respiratory system?
It’s an obsession that hundreds of thousands of us enjoy and pursue every day, but how can we justify spending such huge quantities of time and money on listening to an individual or group you have no affiliation to singing a melody, striking a chord, following a riff or beating a drum?
Musical variety, scope and distribution are at an all time high, thanks to significant technological advances over the last 15 years. Every device you own has the ability to play and download a song from a choice of tens of millions; wherever, whenever. Music festivals and gigs (in Britain at least) have arguably peaked in popularity over the last three to four years, and almost any social situation will be accompanied by some kind of backing track, from clubs and bars, to adverts shown on TV. Whatever your taste, music is an unavoidable and unstoppable score to everyday life.
I probably listen to around five hours of music a day: while commuting, when I’m working, watching TV, playing games – it takes up a colossal chunk of my time. I’ve spent tens of hours neurotically alphabetizing my iTunes library, fervently scouring online radio and music stores to hear new artists and material, and spending hours shivering in the pouring rain, listening to bands I’ve never previously heard of at festivals up and down the country. Adding to this, the tens of thousands of pounds I’ve spent on going to gigs, festivals, CDs, music DVDs, downloads and exclusive recordings, along with the significant expense of playing in a band, rehearsing, playing concerts, instrument upkeep and all that jazz.
Personally, the justification is simple. It could be the sound of Thom Yorke’s haunting, trembling voice on Radiohead’s Street Spirit, the monumental crescendo of The Who’s Won’t Get Fooled Again, the moving, somber soar of Jeff Buckey singing Cohen’s Hallelujah or the sweeping, uplifting crescendo of a John Williams score. These are moments that send a shiver down my spine. Moments that make the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. Moments that force me to stop and appreciate that a piece of music can make me feel something quite extraordinary, something that words will never be able to fully convey. Like Art, Literature and Theatre, it’s an intensely personal, almost unnerving emotion that has the ability to take hold of anybody, should you open your mind to the unrivaled majesty that music has the potential to realise.
The potency of this emotion is originated in its individuality and uniqueness. Music means vastly different things to different people. One person’s background music played on the way to work could be what gives another person the strength and courage they need when faced with particularly difficult or stressful periods in their life, or the escape they need to get them out of bed the next day.
Could Art or Literature provoke the same fanatical devotion and obsession on the scale that music fans regularly demonstrate?
I’ve spoken to groups and artists moments before they’ve taken the stage, holding perfectly normal conversations – but as soon as the show begins, I’ll be screaming myself hoarse in excitement knowing my favourite song, despite having heard it hundreds of times before, is about to be played. The visceral life-affirming experiences I’ve had at many gigs, with 200 people singing songs back at the artist at the top of their voices, invokes an irresistibly strong sense of loyalty, passion and excitement in an experience that brings people together, regardless of their background, in a way I have yet to see replicated.
In times of both happiness and sorrow, music provides the back-drop to the most important moments in our life, and the replaying of a song you first heard five, ten or twenty years ago is as likely to make you shed a tear as to joyfully reminisce. The edifying challenge we all face is exploring the morass of options available and unearthing the niche that strikes the perfect chord within you. Armed with such a discovery, you have the tools to digest and experience one of the purest, most vividly entrancing art forms ever created, and with the endless musical possibilities and opportunities that surround us, it’s an experience you can immerse yourself in for the rest of your life.