Kyle Bylin, Associate Editor (@kbylin)
When watching the series of short animation films released by Music Matters, a UK-based collective formed to âremind listeners of the significance and value of music,â Iâm left with the overwhelming sensation that they are missing the point.
That, by trying to educate people on why music matters, in this manner, by exploring the work and lives of musicians past and present, and concluding with the message: âand thatâs why music mattersâ¦,â theyâre failing on a very fundamental level, failing to ask the real question, one thatâs actually relevant to what theyâre trying to get done. Of course thatâs why the music of Blind Willie Johnson, The Jam, Sigur Ros, and Nick Cave matters. But why stop there?
If the core purpose of their campaign is to âremind listeners of the significance and value of music,â by educating and reconnecting them to that value through these short films. Then, in doing so, theyâve admitted to something important to our understanding of the shortcomings of their campaign: that not only is there an apparent disconnect between listeners and the value of music, but that the inherent value of music has, in some way, become disconnected from the music itself. Iâd imagine that this message is not exactly the one that they were hoping communicate to listeners. So, now that we can see whatâs troublesome about that message, how might they improve upon their question?
In order for their campaign to make the connection between listeners and the value of music, they need to understand thatâin tandem with asking and exploring the question of âwhy music mattersââthey should take things one step further and ask the question: why does music matter to people?
Currently, their short films take the perspective of what Iâve referred to previously as âthe great musicians and singerâs theory.â In short, it goes something like this: that the history of popular music is but the biographies of great musicians and singers, these astonishingly talented men and women, who, through their personal attributes and divine inspiration, revolutionized the ways in which music was played. So too, the theory goes, that it is important we take the time to acknowledge the affluence of these individuals that allowed for their generation and those that followed to reimagine and challenge the boundaries that stood before them. And itâs important to understand the times and the lives of these musicians and singersâbut, you know what?
That perspective of popular music history has almost nothing do with the significance and value of music that theyâre attempting to remind listeners of. âMusic creates meaningâthatâs what it does for audiences,â explains Andrew Dubber of Deleting Music. âAnd, that meaning is cultural. That meaning is not about what the songwriter was thinking about, or even the cultural context of what the songwriter was doing. But what it means to you.â
Therefore, if they want to make their case properly, and remind listeners of these qualities of music, they should expand their focus beyond the impact of great musicians and singers on our society and culture. In essence, their short films also need to speak of how the songs of these men and women have become connected to peopleâs lives and made a part of their stories. Music is, after all, about people. It is, in the words of Professor Karl Paulnack, âone of the ways we make sense of our lives, one of the ways in which we express feelings when we have no words, a way for us to understand things with our hearts when we canât with our minds.â Iâd argue 'thatâs why music (really) matters.'
For a âcollective people across the music industry, including artists, retailers, songwriters, labels and managers,â it really shouldnât take a writerâlike meâto remind you, that itâs not about you anymore. Itâs about each and every one of us. Itâs about the moment when a song intersected with our lives and we realized for one momentâthat one very special momentâthat someone else, out there, feels the way we do, that we are not alone, nor wicked in our ways, and that we may not all bleed the same blood, but at very least, we do bleed.
Think about a moment in your life, where time stopped and the music you were listening to came to mean something real. Suddenly, you could see the beauty beneath the scars and the lyrics became the bloodstained poetry on your heart. Thatâs music. Thatâs why it mattersâto people.
If this âcollectiveâ wants to âremind listeners of the significance and value of music,â then, instead of just imparting upon them the legacies of great musicians and singers, why donât they tell a story about how a song changed their lives? Help listeners gain insight into the one thing that none of us will ever knowâwhat the experience of the world is like through a consciousness other than their own. This is what music does; what really makes it significant and valuable.
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