04 Oct THE HUMANITY IN MUSIC
Music is an intensely emotional art. I’ve gotta say that I’ve cried a lot more listening to music than I have looking at paintings. A song reaches some primal feeling within us, striking fire into our hearts and pulling us along for the ride. Even after you hit pause, or the track ends, it sticks with you. Some pieces of music have stuck with me for my entire life. I used to think that in order to make an emotional song, the process of its creation must have to be emotional as well. Often, I think that this is the case, but I’ve seen enough evidence otherwise. That is, music might make us feel a certain way, but the author didn’t necessarily need to be on that wavelength. They did not have to put their heart into it for the listener to catch their intention. To me, this was a brutal realization. My romantic ideas regarding musicianship faltered, and these newer dark ideas only solidified as I started to make my own music.
I felt like robots were doing the brunt of the work. There are only so many drum patterns and chord progressions and software packages. Online, you can find everything you need for a hit song, and all you need is some cash. Producers can load up “loops” and merely put them together like puzzle pieces. Songs made this way can sound really phenomenal and resonate with an audience, but are created in a much less involved way by the producer. This isn’t to say that they don’t do any of the work; sound selection and decision-making are a massive part of creating a song. However, they aren’t necessarily employing all the skills we traditionally associate with music creation. Is this a bad thing? Should we avoid music like this, or do our “research” beforehand? I don’t think so, because there is a problem with this line of thinking. Even if an AI made a song, a banger is still a banger. Someone might still find enjoyment in it, and there’s no reason to take that away from them. A wonder of music is its subjectivity.
I came to this new perspective this summer when I worked at a camp where the kids (and adults) were having the times of their lives jamming and creating together. It didn’t matter at all to them where their inspiration was coming from, only that they could share in the enjoyment and make some new friends. And you know, all their new friends came from different places with different interests and environments. In the week I worked in, the kid’s various interests were a mix of jazz, rock, and songwriting. Though they mostly kept to themselves, each group would listen in on the others and go to each other’s concerts. I heard some beautiful music there… this is a medium that allows for a massive diversity of interests to coexist and collide. I think we could safely take creativity off of the pedestal we’ve placed it on. Without the pressure to make “good art”, musicians and listeners alike would be better off.
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