Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Quick thought about Music as language (or as a form of communication).

Two weeks ago I traveled almost 1,000 miles to see a (Radiohead) concert. In preparation for such an event, my girlfriend (Paige) and I spent 5 months saving up over $2,000. It took us 15 hours to drive from Orem, UT to Auburn, WA and while waiting for the band to finally come out onto the stage I realized something. This 2,000 dollars, this 1,000 miles, this 15 hours of driving, this 150 days of waiting--all of this--it all came down to a little blurb of time that would seem to end before it began. I asked Paige if she thought it was odd, so many hours of driving, waiting, working to save money... and all of it just to experience 2 hours of music. But as we discussed this I began to look around and I realized something. It wasn't just us, there were thousands of other people on the edge of their seats, each anticipating the same thing: music. Who knows if they drove from 15 blocks away or 15 states away. It didn't matter. There were thousands of people lined up for one reason. And when the first note resonated throughout the arena, thousands of people simultaneously sprang to their feet and collectively erupted like a volcano of voice.

Nobody told any of these people to show up here. Nobody told us to scream, shout, or dance. It was simply understood.

Music not only has the ability to inspire a human being to wait 5 months, save 2,000 dollars, drive 15 hours/1,000 miles, etc. just to experience it first hand; it also has the ability to communicate with thousands of people simultaneously. The majority of the audience surely can not play instruments the way the band can, nor do most of the people watching understand how the band plays their instruments in such a way... but it doesn't matter. All that mattered was the rhythmic conversation between multiple notes and multiple people. The instruments shouting to the crowd and vice versa.


Scott Abbott said...

Great thoughts. We'll have to follow this up with discussion in class about music and language. In the book on the evolution of language I've been reading, there's some great research on how spoken language and music share the basic twelve tones of the common scale and aren't such different entities as some have supposed.