Music of Our Lives
Music has lived with people since they were born. When thinking of music, your mind goes to a song that comes on the radio, or going to watch a symphony perform. As a society, we have had music around for a long time, using it as a source of entertainment. In The Role of Music in Everyday Life: Current Directions in the Social Psychology of Music, Peter J. Rentfrow claims, “Music is a crucial element of everyday life. People spend hours listening to it and billions of dollars buying it.” Music has a major influence on people’s daily lives, but how deep into the music world have people really gotten to explore.
Mainstream music, the definition of music for almost everyone in the world. Instruments combine in harmony to create a beautiful tune, adding in the voice that creates the lyrics to a song. You scream to music, cry to music, laugh to music. You can do anything imaginable and have a song simply playing in the background. Musicians will create songs that have undertones of a specific mood or two, such as happiness or sadness. This mood transmits to the listener, causing them to inherit that mood. A “happy” song is going to be more upbeat, with playful tunes and lyrics, while a “sad” song is more somber and slow with lyrics that you may be able to relate to. Music preferences have a pattern of who listens to what, concluding in creativity, imagination and openness are traits of those who listen to sophisticated music, traits including impulsivity and athletic ability possess listeners of heavy metal and punk, and finally traits of high extraversion, the value of social recognition and appreciation of one’s physical appearance is found in those who listen to contemporary music. The mood of a person as well as their work ethic can change based on if they like the music or hate it, even if a song is meant to set a certain mood.
As a whole, music is many different things combined into one word. Music is a multitude of activities, written scores and objects. Music is usually treated as an object, being moved through time and morphed to fit out current times. Take Beethoven, who’s pieces are performed all of the time, even after being written so many years ago. Something like Bach’s B Minor Mass, which’s original purpose was for religious use but now is performed in a more secular setting. The amalgamation of fundamental building blocks that most pieces use now consists of repeated notes. Its system of tonality creates the space for music to be an object. There is also the act of buying and selling music, which has been occurring for many centuries. Translating into current times, publishers treat music pieces like such objects when they claim them, gaining profit when others want to use the piece for whatever their reason may be. In What is Sociological about Music?, William Roy and Timothy Dowd claim that “music’s object-ness, its embeddedness in institutions, its pervasiveness in everyday life, its popularity as an avocation, and its affirmation in a discourse of transcendent sanctification.” Music was pulled into this object state, and it created this commodity that people are drawn to.
Treating music as an object with very fixed qualities puts it into a some sort of set box, but music is also a verb. The act of “making” or “performing” music, doesn’t make it completely an object but an activity. Even the term “musicking” was coined by musicologist Christopher Small because of his belief. It seems clear that the activity aspect of music is the performance part. I’m sure most people have gotten up on a stage to say a speech or get an award. Many people get up on a stage to perform music for a living or for fun. People who live to perform classical or orchestral music know that many things must come together to put on a performance. The expectations set, dynamics, conductor competency and legitimacy merge together, creating a wonderful show for the audience. Jazz music creates a completely different way of “musicking,” with the development of improvisational skills. This brings another level of musicality, the cognitive skills needed to understand relationships between chords and individual notes becoming another thing to master. The mastery that the performers have to possess of improvisation creates a world of support, connections, experience and opportunities. The process of musicking can approach the intertwining of music and interaction, including people who were only supported and didn’t have actual contribution to the making of music itself. Music is all around us, and you may even be a part of the collaboration, even if you aren’t fully aware.
The possibility of music being analogous to language is also present. Song lyrics are a part of lots of music creations, and researching into the meaning of these lyrics shows a lot. The structure of music has the most meaning behind it, just as elements of language have meaning. Using syntax to analyze a piece of writing can be equivalent to having music parsed into its own formal features. It has even been argued that specific music projects can have the same tension as a literacy plot, each showing an overarching storyline in their own way. Music has a structure that creates a story for the listener, and it usually follows a specific storyline (ex. Verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, end) just like a piece of literature would.
From birth, a notation of music is put into our heads. The major fact is that there is so much more complexity to music than an average lister might think. It can be anything you want it to be, a gust of wind, a waterfall, the rattle of a baby toy. Something beautifully put by William Roy and Timothy Dowd in What is Sociological about Music?, “The object of musical notation that lies at the heart of classical music is made alive by the musicking that surrounds it.” The creation, performance, collaboration and object-ness all circle around the one word we all know as music.
Rentfrow, P. J. (2012, May 2). The role of music in everyday life: Current directions in the social psychology of Music. Wiley Online Library. Retrieved October 20, 2021, from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1751-9004.2012.00434.x?globalMessage=0.
Roy , W. G., & Dowd, T. J. (2010). What is sociological about music? Annual Reviews. Retrieved October 20, 2021, from https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev.soc.012809.102618.