Wednesday, January 10, 2007

What does music say about a person?

I've always thought that music in the social concept is an interesting topic: How does our taste in sound define us? People are social creatures, and music is inherently social. Some musicians perform for the fans, others for the experience, and others to try to reach stardom. What's so peculiar about music is how much of it relies on other people: If you sing the most beautiful song in the world and no one hears it, is it worth anything? If no one ever knows that you were singing, then the only benefit is your enjoyment - the base incentive to perform. Beyond personal enjoyment, all other benefits rely on the people who experience the performance. Many musicians are pleased if fans enjoy their work. Some musicians release their recordings on the Internet for free, in order to attract listeners. Every musical artist has asked: How do I draw fans?

And it's the fans that drive the music off-stage. It's the fans that have driven everything that happens beyond the musicians: What people think about them, which music CDs people buy, what merchandise to buy. The people who don't make the music spread it. The market for music exists because people are different, and the buyers all have their auditory senses intact (or, mostly).

And the subcultures all have their own music. Whether the subculture defines the music or the music defines the subculture is a possibility to consider. Would the goth movement exist without death metal? Would the emo subculture exist without Bright Eyes? Or do 50 Cent and Aesop Rock define hip-hop and underground urban hip-hop? Do The Shins define indie rock? Simply, no, I don't think so. People are hard to categorize by genres, just as their music is. How could a person who appreciates multiple genres be limited to one respective subculture? Is it a crime for a goth to like TV on the Radio? If music defined the subculture, there would be a million subcultures, one for each unique identity. And what about the people who just like music? The people who generally belong to a culture and not a subculture? People with diverse tastes would be unclassifiable if music really summed up a person. Each man or woman has an identity that no one can duplicate.

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