Friday, May 6, 2011

The Power of Music

I have been pondering how music has the ability to change individuals. I believe that music brings emotions, thoughts, and ideas to people that otherwise would be absent. Utah Phillips used music to convey a deeper message about social justice. Through music he was able to create a community of individuals that shared similar beliefs. Anyone could understand the music. It doesn’t discriminate between those who can read and those who can’t. Utah Phillip’s was able to affect people’s attitudes in a way that had lasting impacts as followers hummed and repeated the lyrics.

I enjoy composing piano pieces and have thought a great deal about the message I send to my audience. Although I don’t share words I can convey a mood through the melodic progression, dynamics, and technique. I have the ability to share a feeling of joy, danger, sadness, hope, tension, and excitement. Just like Utah Phillips I can send a deeper message to those who listen to my music. I think that is the beauty of music—it doesn’t matter whether it is folk, instrumental, rap, jazz, opera, or whatever genre. Music has the power to change people. It empowers people to feel and think things that would have never experienced on their own.


  1. Nicely put. There is something about music, any kind, that can build community - think of the really big, famous examples like the Deadheads; but as simple as sitting around with friends listening to a disc. My wife and I took a Grand Canyon rafting trip last year, and one of the guides was a pretty good guitar player/singer who knew lots of Townes Van Zandt, one of my favorites. But he didn't know the chords for "Pancho and Lefty," but he and I knew the words and melody, so we just sat there and sang it in front of the others - a real highlight of the trip for me (don't know about the others!) Duncan included a couple of really intriguing Utah quotes on the liner notes for 'Long Gone' - an interviewer asked Utah what his ultimate folk festival would be, and he answered 'one where nobody showed up,' which Duncan thinks means he would prefer to have everybody sitting around at home or outside playing and singing their own songs.


  2. Your post reminded me of the German Swingjugend--a teen subculture in the 1930s and 40s centered around jazz and Nazi resistance. Ringleaders got sent to concentration camps. When I first learned of it (reading the book Teenage: The Prehistory of Youth Culture 1875 - 1945 by Jon Savage, which I recommend), it just blew my mind that people could gather around a musical community when it meant taking such risk. At some point some were wearing armbands with the Star of David and the word "Jazz" as a sign of solidarity/protest.