Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Music for Social Change

Music. Music is something practically ever functioning member of society can relate to. Music expresses our desires, our joys, our frustrations, our sadness, and it gives us a sense of identity. Through music we are both individualized, and associated with certain groups.

Aldous Huxley once said that "After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music." I think this is spot on. Look at those who find themselves in a place of utter happiness; how do they express it so often? With appropriate music; music and lyrics contain a power unparalleled by other mediums. Music is dynamic, captivating, expressive, poetic, thought about, and remembered.

It is those last two characteristics that really give music power in society. To  memorize a poem, or paper, or other information is difficult for many people; but few have difficulty memorizing song, using rhythm, beat, melody, and feeling to remember the lyrics. In this way music is more persistent than nearly any other form of media; people remember it in vivid detail.

And when something is remembered, it is thought about. Lyrics set to music can appeal to our compassion, our anger, our frustration, our sadness, our apathy, or any number of other emotions. This appeal can be powerful and convicting, spurring individuals on to pursue and accomplish great things.

Remember, society is built by the actions and interactions of individuals; your choices make a difference. Personal interactions, opinions, and expression all contribute to what society becomes. In this way, the individual has as much power as the politician or celebrity. Those people living a real life, without fame, are what makes up society, not the celebrities adored by the media.

For instance Edwin Starr's song "War"  (later sung by Bruce Springsteen) protests war, expressing that all war accomplishes is a brokenness. This song has had great influence on changing American society's perception of war, and particularly encouraged withdrawal from Vietnam. Other songs, like John Lennon's "Imagine," Pete Seeger's "Turn! Turn! Turn," and many, many more have expressed this sentiment

Looking to more recent popular music Warren Barfield's "Love is not a fight" expresses a sentiment of commitment that modern society has lost. It expresses a set of social ideals, saying:
Love is not a place
To come and go as we please
It's a house we enter in
Then commit to never leave
The song expresses the age-old ideal of unconditional love. Love is a choice, it's a commitment, and its not one that any individual has the right to violate. To choose to love is an action that is for the betterment of someone other than ones self, and provides security:
Love is a shelter in a raging storm
Love is peace in the middle of a war
The song expresses that for a person being loved, love is a safe place, it's something that every individual is in need of. And it's something that once given and assured of, is unjust to take away.

Music is a powerful tool of expression. Life, love, hate, war, frustration, sadness, sorrow, heartbreak, joy, happiness, and celebration are just a few of the emotions that can be expressed in music. And like everyday interaction, music can and often does express social ideals, a sense of social expectation, and definition of social justice. Music contributes to the defining of the unwritten social code that society generally adheres to. The more pleasant the code, the more pleasant the society.

So listen to music, express yourself, but be careful what music you listen to; because the wrong ideas are very capable of degrading the fragile integrity of society, and its your responsibility to prevent it.

Please! Comment below with the song's that have changed the way you perceive the world.

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