The news everyday has a tendency to get progressively depressing. That, one might say is a characteristic, or an intrinsic property of it being the news. Climate change, droughts, famines, extinction, terrorism, shootings, oppression, domination, extinction of languages, cultural imperialism. It is an endless list. I also realize that pretty much none of these things is new. We have been, as a people, actively fantasizing about the death of the earth and of humanity for at least a hundred years. We have used the best numbers we can get our hands on to predict a doomsday. We have always used change as fear. And in those numbers, always coded our own biases, as we still do.
I am a PhD student in the musicology department, but my family consists of 2 conservation biologists, and 2 medical doctors. My uncles who were soldiers, felt that the nation was something to fight for. My mother performs life saving surgeries on most days in every week. At my previous institute, I have had professors who worked closely with an information network for farms. I grew up in a small town, and was well connected to the impossible problems of the quicksand nature of global cultural investment and the speedy erosion of local sensibilities. The contributions of all these people to the world are extremely obvious, and extremely important.
A result of this background is that I ask myself the question everyday. Why am I studying music, whose life am I seeking to better? How does this affect anyone anywhere? What is the point? I am not a performer, delivering direct entertainment to anyone. I am not actively working as a music teacher either. Am I participating in a game of privilege? Not the producer but the inauthentic connoisseur, the passive ivory tower theorizer?
Last week, the voice asking these questions was stronger than ever. Xenophobia and perverse narratives of people seeking to throw others out occupied the news. Shitty climate, more dams, more drought was there as usual. What am I doing for anything.
Until recently, I had been searching for all kinds of evidence for how the arts, music included benefit your life. And there are a lot of great and important points to be made regarding the close link of us being human, and us being capable of artistic expression. I heard Ben Cameron’s talk and Martha Nussbaum’s book, and I found assurance in Adrienne Rich’s poems on poetry. I sought these lofty answers out again. Any solace to justify my move outside my poor, beautiful country to a faraway rich beautiful country. Why. And yesterday it hit me.
Music is the one of the few things we do well, we as in mankind.
It is the thing that in and of of itself can possibly not push an agenda, it is not meant for converting and convincing, even if it is used as a tool sometimes. In and of of itself, it is semantically void without words. It is not possible to produce a thing of music that is not a thing of surprise, and beauty. I am meant to die feeling impossibly lifted and absorbed in musical content. I was born to feel utterly unrequited forever, in how amazing music is, how diverse, how many things it has to say.
I want to continue to study music forever. It is a one sided love. I just sit by my desk and ruminate about how it is possible for it to do such things to us. Before we all perish forever from our own deeds, I want to be a part of the forever infinite beauty of music.