There is absolutely nothing like the experience of sitting in the concert hall and hearing a symphony orchestra play or standing outside in a crowd full of people as your favorite band plays. This is an experience that every person should have regularly and that every person should support.
Live music is certainly not a new phenomenon. Before the advent of radio, broadcasting, recording, and streaming, all music was live. Before the technology that allowed you to package sound and take it anywhere was developed, dinner parties were often accompanied by music sessions. Friends and family would gather around the house piano and perform for each other partsongs or simple melodies. This is where many tunes that we consider Americana came from. These folk tunes have permeated throughout our lives in the form of some of our greatest national treasures.
As time went on, this practice became less and less common. Children didn’t really develop good musical skills from a young age unless encouraged by their parents, and much of the musical fabric of America was altered because of the shift in musical saturation. That is not to say that music was eliminated from our culture (because it obviously wasn’t), but that the primary method of transmission shifted. When the radio became an everyday household object, families would often spend an evening listening to swing bands on the radio, and eventually, watch the same bands on the television. As time went on, this method of transmission became essentially the way we listen to music today; we sit with headphones in or the TV on and passively take in music rather than the original methods of active listening. This shift is a problem.
Music is a purely cultural phenomenon. That is to say that it exists in all creatures that have culture, which as far as science is concerned, is only the human race. Birds can sing but they lack some skills of music that humans have. Monkeys can feel rhythm, but they don’t really have any perception of pitch. Whales sing with their gigantic vocal chords but they sing in unique ways that we don’t. Ultimately, music is something that we as humans do alone. That is why we should all be going to concerts as much as we can.
For some of us, it’s about an understanding that classical music is for the educated and rock music is for the uneducated. This perception could not be further from the truth. The snooty, uppercrust idea that classical music is only for the educated is a perpetuation of societal rules from long ago, primarily in the presentation of opera. Opera was once considered only for the rich. Composers wrote operas based on famous mythologies or historical figures because the rich already knew the stories, so they didn’t actually have to pay attention to any words, just the singing and the music. This approach shifted over the course of the 20th century and into the modern era. Opera was being written that could appeal to everyone, because ultimately, that’s what classical music aims to do. Rock and pop, or “commercial music” aims to do very much the same thing as classical music: communicate.
I challenge each of us to go to a concert that we wouldn’t normally go to. There is always something to learn from music, regardless of the style. We just have to be open to listening.