Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Musical Communication

Musical Communication

Miell, MacDonald, Hargreaves

The article ‘How do people communicate using music?’ by Hargreaves, MacDonald and Miell, provided me with the opportunity to examine the different musical experiences and concerts I have participated in, and the messages I have received . Furthermore, it also allowed me to explore exactly what aspect of the event; the musical material, the performers or the composer acted as the vehicle to deliver the musical meaning intended.

Musical meaning is an enormous area of study, and again, of particular interest to me in my independent research. Hargreaves, MacDonald and Miell state “Music is a fundamental channel of communication: it provides a means by which people can share emotions, intentions, and meaning. Music can exert powerful physical and behavioural effects, can produce deep and profound emotions within us, and can be used to generate infinitely subtle variations of expressiveness by skilled composers and performers, such that highly complex informational structures and contents can be communicated extremely rapidly between people.” (Hargreaves et. al., 1) I have been exploring the ways in which music can act as not only the platform, but the vehicle for social change, through the identity created by a unifying element like music, and through the powerful communication that music provides. The incredible might of music as a powerful political force has been seen in movements such as the Civil Rights Movement, the movement in Estonia fighting against the Soviet occupation become known as the Singing Revolution. It is also seen in the Music of Resistance-a new six part documentary series which depicts stories of musician fighting repression. It is an incredible set of stories from people fighting for justice and for freedom in all areas of the world and “they are all talented but for them ‘making it’ is not about diamonds and sports cars-it is about radical political change.” One of the most incredible stories tells the story of a nomadic tribe in the southern Sahara; “Once a group of rebel soldiers, training alongside Colonel Gadaffi in Libya, after years of struggle and violence Tinariwen decided to lay down their guns and fight with a different weapon- music.” I find the notion of using music as a weapon absolutely incredible. I find this movement similar to the movement in Estonia in which the Estonian nationals fought for their freedom and their independence through the medium of song alone, with no weapons. It is incredible to think of the communication that occurs through the music alone. In Estonia for instance, the music performed were Estonian national songs. Even as an outsider, listening to the incredible effect of an entire nation singing the powerful nationalistic patriotic songs I was moved tremendously. I did not understand the language, and I was not a part of the struggle. I was not personally invested in the movement, but by the time I heard the singing of 20,000 people, the message reached me, and I was deeply affected. That was one of the first times that I pondered the notion of musical communication through the medium itself. Of course, the effect was felt due to the various factors at play. When I became aware of the movement, it was through the documentary entitled ‘The Singing Revolution’ in which, naturally, the Estonian side is presented, and the material is presented in a very emotional way. However, I really feel that even if I had seen only the singing, I would have been touched, and the message would have been conveyed. I feel that one of the most powerful genres of music is nationalistic, patriotic music. It is composed in a way to evoke emotion, and instill a feeling of unity and pride in all its listeners. Music, especially in terms of nationalism and freedom, under the right circumstances offers the medium for political, social and emotional communication.

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