Saturday, March 19, 2011

Music: The Universal Language

In light of everything that's happening around the world, be it the current situation in Bahrain, Libya or Japan amongst others, it's always important to feel like one has freedom of choice in at least a single element of their lives. Please do not mistake my statement, or this post, for belittling these harrowing events. On the contrary, with talk of the inhumanity of the internet intensifying and people in different regions of the world feeling increasingly alienated, it is important to extract whatever joy one can from life. There is often one constant that can bring us back together. To me, this is the universal language of music. In effect, I am revisiting a fun, old post, in the hopes that this will put a smile on your face and remind you that no matter what, music in any shape or form remains a global freedom. 

I hate when people are pretentious in regards to their musical choices. Everyone I know has a member of the 'music police' constantly patrolling their musical plains in an effort to 'amend' their preferred tunage. Unfortunately, I seem to have befriended several members of the musical riot police and tend to pay the price continuously. Whenever an opportunity presents itself for an interjection, and without fail, I end up sounding like the union leader for alternative music rights. Let me tell you a little about my musical personality.

I’m an indie/rock kid through and through, i.e. I enjoy bands that play their own music, write their own lyrics, with wardrobes that resemble that of a lumberjack's and facial hair to battle Lennon's circa lie-in days. Well, not necessarily that latter bit, but you know what I mean. The indie music scene in itself is a source of comfort to me, with its lovely laid back sounds, snuggly flannel and rolling meadows. 

This musical influence is very much a result of an elective I was fortunate enough to take during second year uni about power and war in ’60s America. My professor, a renowned leftist and public speaker, Anthony Ashbolt, was a legend and had visited Haight-Ashbury at the height of the hippy movement, and often told us of his incredible adventures; meeting some of the most incredible political and educational figures. He always had a bit of a nostalgic look about him whenever he reminisced. The best part of that class, was the music.

The subject hours were split into three classes over the course of each week – two seminars and one video session. Said session was in a building, tucked at the back of the uni, with a dodgy, low entrance, surrounded by enormous foliage (if you’ve ever been to Australia, you’d understand the enormous context of which I speak) and a rickety, wooden patio. Let’s just say it set the stage for Nam, protests and Woodstock. The soundtrack to each video moved me to tears. I would sit next to my equally indie obsessive mate, and we’d whisper to each other about how ‘rad’ all the music was ‘man’. Watching Blair Witch Project-like accounts of the war, the sit-ins, the world changing speeches to the soundtrack of musical Gods; that class opened my eyes up to a lot more than just the arrogance of politics.

Cue my insatiable love affair with Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Jimi Hendrix, the Creedence Clearwater Revival, Santana, Janis Joplin and countless other legends, who made that time, arguably the most prolific in music history. But what entails musical integrity?  

Believe me, I’ve done my fair share of belittling nerve grating acts; enter The Saturday's, JLS, Willow Smith or any tween sensations, boy/girl bands that are personally nowhere near my cup of tea. However, can we really class one piece of music as ‘better’ than another due to personal taste? Now, surely there are different levels to this argument. I'm not about to draw comparisons between Justin Beiber and Michael Jackson, or Girls Aloud and The Supremes. Hell, you can’t even compare Girls Aloud to The Spice Girls, but that’s a different story altogether. In the sense of inter-genre comparison, however, where is the line drawn? I wouldn’t know where to begin comparing guitar heroes like Slash, Santana and Jimi Hendrix. 

The question is, when did genre allegiance or even image, become such a critical part of musical enjoyment? Even the self-confessed 60s kid that I am, I adore all different types of artists and performances. From Daft Punk to The Gorillaz, Eric Clapton to Jay-Z, and more – I enjoy lots of everything. Who is anyone to tell me – or you – that we should do otherwise? 

Personal expression, freedom of speech; these are privilege's we are all guilty of taking for granted. With all the chaos and sorrow in the world, personal expression remains protected through music. Listen to what makes you happy, what inspires you and what helps you through another day. What's your music of choice? 


  1. Nice post girl. You have some fine music taste! :)

    That's interesting that a class spurred your love of some of these bands. It wasn't until I took "History of American Pop" that I fell in love with the oldies! Before I thought "Pff, this is for old people." I was surprisingly mistaken!

    Hmm, music of choice for me... little bit of everything.
    50's, 60's 70's, 80's, 90's, current pop, rap, r&b, country, techno, not so much the hard metal though.

    Favorites right now, I'm on an 80's pop binge. AND recently discover how great Morrisey is. *swoon*

    I just realized I don't have this blog on RSS yet. *def adding* :)

  2. Great post - something I've long had an issue with but haven't been able to write down as well as you have without it coming across as a rant :)

    I've been through "stages" throughout my life and the music I listen to has always played a central role in how I view myself and express myself, from loving the Spice Girls and all things cheese, to getting a lip ring and seeing myself as a geeky little wannabe punk!

    I still love all the music I used to listen to and feel that I'm now beyond labelling and stereotyping and just like what I like.

    I can't stand it when people turn their nose up at me because I like to work out to cheesy dance or worse still, say my music taste is great, but they heard that particular band...oh like...a year ago...before they got big. Urgh please just get over yourself!

    See what I mean about getting very "rant-y" about this!

  3. Arianna - looks like you and I had similar epiphanies via college classes. It's funny what you indirectly pick up from uni. Our tastes sound pretty similar too! I hope my posts continue to put a smile on your face :)

    Becca - I *completely* now what you mean. I have photos of myself as a teen with dyed, jet black hair and lashings of eyeliner, trying to come off as a metal head. I also went through an 'urban' phase and so on and so forth. I always - as Im sure many others like us - copped flack for something or the other. I just think, why argue over something so beautiful, something we all have the luxury of enjoying, when there really is something for everyone?

    Thank you for the comments ladies.

  4. I would say that the universal language of music is often used in resistance to oppression, depression, suppression and for that matter all other 'sions. (With perhaps the curious exception of classical music)

    Music is also curious as its the only artform which really transcends into subcultures. Blues, Hip Hop, Punk, Grunge, Electro are all genres that typify their audience as well as having their roots set heavily in resistance.

    I have always found it interesting and somewhat surprising that despite music being on of our most personal choices (and it is a personal thing) that actually most people fit into wider music subcultures.