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A Paper on The Importance of Music

Updated on February 29, 2012

Throughout life there are many instances where music is playing, whether its quietly humming in the background, or blasting out of a pair of speakers at a raging party. Either way music is commonly used in different situations to add to the ambiance or evoke emotions from a reader, or crowd of people. Recently I was driving in my car and overheard someone speaking on the radio say that “ when the music feels good you feel good”, it was this that finally inspired me to sit down and write this paper. I was having trouble trying to figure out what exactly to write I had considered talking about the importance of the relationship between the artist and the critic, and how people use this relationship to judge writing among the other arts. An example would be deciding not to read any of Wildes work after realizing his history as a homosexual man. Instead, in this essay I will talk about the importance of music in art, writing and life in general. Music also shows support for Aristotle’s beliefs that through art we can achieve truth, and interpret it in our own unique way. You will find arguments as to why I believe that music is important, as well as how it is used in art to add to the spectacle of something. While spectacle is a word used to reference a combination of all aspects of tragedy, I think that in addition to enhancing a play, the use of music can add to the mood of almost any experience. For the purpose of this paper the word spectacle is referring to the combination of all aspects of a tragedy that contribute to its sensory performance, this can include the scenery, costumes, hand gestures or the music and tone of an actor’s voice. As Nietzsche has said; music is the highest form of expression and hopefully after reading this essay you will feel as if you agree with this notion.

During our reading on Aristotle we read about why he believes that art works in conjunction with truth, and through art we move closer to the truth. Whereas Plato on the other hand prioritizes truth over art because he believes art deters us from the truth. In contrast to Plato I am more of a believer in Aristotle’s theory on art. Art is one of the highest forms of expression, and music is certainly a well used outlet by people. In a piece of Aristotle’s work called Poetics, he expresses his belief that spectacle is the least important component of tragedy and that a reading of a play can be just as magical as seeing one performed. While other thinkers believe that the character and plot are more important. Conversely others could make the argument that some things are written to be performed and without the spectacle aspect would fail to allow its audience to experience some type of catharsis. A piece of writing in particular could be one of Shakespeare’s plays, surely Romeo and Juliet wouldn’t be as exciting and tragic if the romance were only read monotone from someone sitting all in black in the center of a small stage.

In class when talking about Nietzsche we looked at an episode of X-Files and how the music being played affected what was being shown. The scene we looked at in particular played some jazzy upbeat tune while a group of deformed killers drove up to a house and proceeded to walk inside and gruesomely murder the houses inhabitants. This reminded me of a scene from Jeepers Creepers that also played out in a similar way. There was a young boy whose eyes were being removed from him and in the background, again, this beautiful song was blaring away as the killer worked. What was of interest to me was the contradictory use of an upbeat melody while being played against a scene that was meant to elicit feelings of fear or horror from the audience. I have to wonder whether the use of music in a movie or theater is meant to throw off the audience or is done merely to give life to the scene in a different way. If say the author had paired the gory scene with some thriller music perhaps it would lessen the effect they were trying to achieve. I can’t be sure but its interesting to think whether or not the audiences response to someone being killed changes that dramatically because an upbeat song is playing in the background rather then a loud eery song that would seem to fit the mood better?

Although in class we talked about what Nietzsche’s thoughts on music were, after doing a little more research I came across a quote that summed up the purpose of music perfectly,

“ Without music life would be a mistake”. While Nietzsche isn’t around now to interpret this for us, I think that what he was getting at is music is able to give another dimension to something that otherwise may have been bland or misunderstood. Perhaps the issue of playing beautiful music during a horrific scene is more about keeping the audiences interest and sustaining suspense rather than throwing them off. Music is used throughout many different avenues in life, and is something that we all encounter daily. During the 24 years of my life I have never once met someone who didn’t like some form of music, although plenty of people have preferences. In all of the restaurants I’ve worked at or been in ,99% of the time some mellow low-key music was playing softly in the background, as customers munch away at their food. Should you go into a place where no music is playing it isn’t uncommon for someone to request it within the first hour of service, as proof of this I did an experiment at work and we started the night without anything playing, and like predicted within 5 minutes of sitting down our first table of the evening had commented that it was rather quiet inside, and requested we play a snazzy tune.

One of the other intriguing aspects of music is that its something that can be created by anybody, its not surprising so many people have tried to write their own, or have become a critic of music. To demonstrate just how many people are interested in music I went into google and performed a search of 8 different things and these were the results. The highest number of pages available contained 1,610,000,000 websites on the topic “ Music”, with the search for “Love” returning with 1,480,000,000. The third highest response came from searching the word “Art” which had 1,210,000,000 results. The remaining four topics and their number of hits available were “Writing Music”(48,800,000) “Sports”( 867,000), “Education” (860,000) and “ Writing a Resume” (34,7000). While on this topic of what people interpret as music a good friend of mine pointed out that being a form of art anything that produces sound could be considered music. Music is a specific organization of sound, consider the saying “ that's music to my ears” this implies that like art what a person considers “good” or “bad” music, or even if something is music at all is all in personal opinion. For example the sound of rain, or someone clanging on buttons could be considered music to someone and nonsensical background noise to the next person, this begs the question what is music? Is it simply a combination of sounds that creates a melody, or is it any group of sounds played together? If Mozart were to hear techno today or someone rapping I wonder if he would consider that music or just a mixture of beats? I also wonder what Nietzsche would say about all of this. Based on Nietzsche’s interpretation and respect for the Dionysic attitude it seems he would think that any enemy of Dionysis is also an enemy of music. For this reason and because of his overall attitude throughout this book I think that Nietzsche if he were still around would hold just as much respect for rap as a musical form as he would something that resembles poetry. It seems that most music is its own type of poetry, take for example these Beatles Lyrics “Love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love. There's nothing you can do that can't be done. Nothing you can sing that can't be sung. Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game It's easy. There's nothing you can make that can't be made. No one you can save that can't be saved. Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time - It's easy. All you need is love, love is all you need”. Isn’t this just another type of poetry? The only difference is that we have some type of melody playing along in the background so now someone can hum this to themselves instead of hear someone read it. In fact any of the Beatles music at that would appear to be rather boring if the four of them stood on stage and repeated “All you need is love” in a monotone voice, music gives life to things, especially a tragedy.

While these search results don’t suggest any causal relationships I think they show support for the importance of music to people. As for why music is so popular, some possibilities could be that by giving music a name and a label we open up a world of possibilities. As with anything, music is and can be critiqued, and by labeling the different types we can make our own opinions and act accordingly. Similar to art, another aspect of music is that universally we can appreciate a well written tone or melody. In classical, or a performance such as Celtic Woman sometimes all you have available is the tune being played in front of you. Music does something with people that is unlike most things we encounter, it can connect with us at an energetic level. To illustrate this I have had the wonderful experience of working with an amazing child who adores people from Pitbull to Andrea Botacelli. What is fascinating too see is how this child connects with music. Being a child who is very rigid with his daily routine after getting off the bus 20 minutes longer than his usual bus ride, he is taken out of his wheelchair and all fists are flying as his brother tries to take off his jacket. Yet when his mother puts on a dvd of Celtic Woman which he had just recently saw in person, his entire spirit and demeanor changed. In Celtic Woman they have a fiddler player who he absolutely loves, a solo of hers comes on and he is instantly smiling and clapping, while humming along as she fiddles. Life is perfect now he has a way to connect with everyone around him, it may not be through speech but through music he can enjoy a dvd singing and humming along with his family. In this instance I think this is one of the beauties of music. How often after a breakup has someone you know, or yourself sat there drowning yourself is depressing music? While music can help express our sadness it can also be used at a festive gathering for say a wedding or birthday to get everybody excited. In sports that is another example of when music is used, whether it be played in the stands to get fans going, or is playing in the locker room as the teams go at it. Recently while hanging out with an old friend he asked me to play a song from his computer and when I was looking I noticed he had his music sorted by emotions and moods. Then when I asked him about why he had done this, I loved what his response was, he told me he liked to be able to control the room, something he has mastered through music. This made me think about how true this is. I’m not sure if it is just my generation but I can say anytime I have been to either a social gathering at someone’s house or in a bar scene, whenever the song “Don’t stop Believing” by Journey comes out of a jukebox or someone’s radio, within minutes a montage of people have begun belting out the tune. Not only does this create a sense of belonging among all of those who have become involved, it helps people bond and form friendships.

Everyday people are writing the soundtrack to their life and allowing themselves to be both a critic and an artist. As mentioned before as humans we can use music to help define who we are or express our moods. This feeling created by music is what makes spectacle so important to a play, having music along with scenery and gestures can help along with the writing to evoke emotion from its audience. In a play the creator tries to create a mimesis of how we interact, through the use of gestures, costume, scenery and also with music the author can achieve this affect. For myself these reasons demonstrated the importance of music in both spectacle and in life. When so much of our lives is surrounded and influenced by music, it seems only normal that in order to provide a common ground for the audience to laugh and cry together, music can be an easy way to do that. Just as watching the television is often more interesting when we can hear what is going on, a play can sometimes be enhanced and create a more Cathartic affect by using tools that we relate too on a daily basis, as mentioned repeatedly throughout this essay one of the best tools available is music. While this essay is an opinion piece if anything I hope it has given some food for thought as too why spectacle is not only an important piece of a play, but also expands on how music itself is very involved with our daily lives. As found on a music page on 100 greatest quotes the best part about music is that “ music is what feelings sound like”. Music is love, hate, anger, lust, disgust, sadness, depression, happiness, joy and laughter, and what better way to make the audience experience this then by using music to do what it does best?

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    • donnaisabella profile image

      Donaisabella 5 years ago from Fort Myers

      So much covered in this essay but it set me thinking from the very beginning. For example, each time I have watched a French movie (regardless of where on earth it was produced), there is a certain feeling of strangeness to the movie, which I have discovered is related to the movie being played without any background music. There is a huge difference, I can assure you. But, if you ask me which one I prefer, I would probably say either one of them and for different reasons. Sometimes I need silence, at other times I need the music. When we appreciate music, we will appreciate silence as well because within it there is music which is played not by the sound of the ear, but by the emotion of life.

      Music is a universal language that humans have spoken since time immemorial and no has to teach them. All peoples of the world have their own kinds of instruments and tunes, but music is played to release stress, make work easier, bring people together, teach, educate etc. Thanks for the piece, it made interesting and provocative reading.

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      Old Poolman 5 years ago

      Really great hub. I can't read, write, or play music, but I truly love it. I far prefer listening to some good music to watching TV. Music does control moods and I can change my own mood by the music I select to listen to. I admire those who can play or sing, but my lack of talent doesn't take anything away from my enjoyment of good music. Very interesting and well written hub.

    • kj force profile image

      kjforce 5 years ago from Florida

      Sounds of music are all around us from birth. It can be soothing, relieve stress or it can be a sound that provokes an emotion of chaos.The world without music would be very sad, there is a variety of types and mean different things to different people. Great article..thanks for sharing..

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Your last quote is the best: "music is what feelings sound like." That says it all, really. As a former teacher I was always saddend when budget cuts would come around and the arts were always the first to be discontinued or cut back. A mentor of mine once said that what we need in this world is more artists and less accountants...I couldn't agree more. Great hub!