Can someone tell me why music is so important?
(It's a rhetorical question; even though my posts get aggregated into the main “Read” feed I rarely check it to see if anyone has responded.)
For the past few days I've been aggregating my entire music collection into my Plex server, and I've been amazed at how much this has increased my perceived value of said server. Videos are good. TV shows are fun. But music has such a power over my mood, and it's a power that I'm at least partially able to harness. I can sometimes wrest my mood out of a bad groove by finding some good music.
I've spent countless hours thinking about the best way to bring music into my own life; I've researched and purchased fancy DAC hardware and a number of different models of Sennheiser headphones to ensure that if I'm at work or home, I have my music, pure and free from corruption or interruption caused by bad hardware. (Yes, my Plex library is mostly full of FLAC files, not because I think they sound better but because I intend to have them for a very long time, and lossless codecs do a better job correcting for bit rot.)
All of that is just to say that I care a lot about music, which is an odd thing to care about. I'm only passingly able to create music on my own. I sang in choirs for six years, but that was decades ago. I have dabbled in guitar but I'm not good enough that I would ever play in front of another person.
And I'm not alone; humanity seems to care about music quite a bit. We spend billions of dollars annually on direct purchases of albums we love from artists we want to support, above and beyond monthly subscriptions so we can wander widely and experience new music.
Lewis Thomas, one of my heroes, had this to say:
Music is the effort we make to explain to ourselves how our brains work. We listen to Bach transfixed because this is listening to a human mind.
The need to make music, and to listen to it, is universally expressed by human beings. I cannot imagine, even in our most primitive times, the emergence of talented painters to make cave paintings without there having been, near at hand, equally creative people making song. It is, like speech, a dominant aspect of human biology.
And he's right, music has intertwined itself in every part of human life. We have songs to celebrate the banal as well as the sacred. When we are falling in love we have songs for that. When love ends we have songs for that. Every major life event has music associated with it. Read the following list and you'll be able to hear the song related to the event in your head:
- Funeral (??? This is definitely a time for music, but I can't pin it down to a single piece)
And then there is music that seems to exist only to be itself. Moonlight Sonata, for example. It's not a soundtrack. It's not tied to a life event. It's simply an exploration of moonlight. It is there to add richness to an event we all share.