Tuesday, November 30, 2021

What is behind the magic of live music?

For months, fans have been forced to watch their favorite singers and musicians via Zoom or webcasts. Now live performances – from festivals like Lollapalooza to Broadway musicals – are officially back.

Songs played in living rooms during the COVID-19 pandemic could have hits from artists. But there is something magical about seeing music around other people. Some fans reported that their first performances in almost two years moved them so much that they cried with joy

As a music theorist, I spent my entire career trying to understand what kind of “magic” is. And partly to understand this, you need to think of music as something more than just sounds that wash over the listener.

Music is more than communication

Music is often seen as the twin sister of the language. While words usually convey ideas and knowledge, music conveys emotion.

According to this view, performers broadcast their messages – music – to their audience. Listeners decode messages based on their own listening habits, and this is how they interpret the emotions that the performers hope to convey.

But if all the music conveyed emotion, watching an online concert shouldn’t have been any different than attending a live performance. Indeed, in both cases, the listeners heard the same melodies, the same harmonies and the same rhythms.

So what cannot be seen on a computer screen?

The short answer is that music does much more than just communication. When it happens in person, with other people, it can create strong physical and emotional bonds.

“Mutual tuning”

Without physical interaction, our well-being suffers. We fail to achieve what the philosopher Alfred Schütz called “mutual attunement” or what pianist and Harvard professor Vijay Iyer recently described as “being together in time.”

In my book, Playing Out Musical Time, I note that time has a certain feeling and structure that goes beyond the mere fact of passing through it. Of course, he can move faster or slower. But it can also be filled with emotions: there are times of gloomy, joyful, melancholic, stormy, and so on.

When the passage of time is experienced in the presence of others, it can generate a form of intimacy in which people enjoy or grieve together. Perhaps this is why the physical distancing and social isolation caused by the pandemic have been so difficult for so many people – and why so many people whose lives and routines have been upturned have reported disturbing changes in their perception of time.

When we are in physical intimacy, our mutual attunement actually generates bodily rhythms that make us feel good and give us a greater sense of belonging. One study found that babies who bounce to music in sync with an adult exhibit increased altruism toward that person, while another study found that close friends tend to synchronize their movements when talking or walking together.

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Music is not necessary for this synchronization to occur, but rhythms and beats facilitate synchronization by giving it shape.

On the one hand, music encourages people to make certain movements and gestures while they dance, clap their hands, or simply nod their heads in time. On the other hand, music gives listeners a time base: where to place these movements and gestures so that they sync with others.

Harry Connick Jr makes the crowd clap in unison.

Great Synchronizer

Because of the pleasing effect of syncing with the people around you, the emotional satisfaction you get from listening to or watching the Internet is fundamentally different from attending a live performance. At a concert, you can see and feel the bodies around you.

Even when apparent movement is limited, as in a typical Western classical music concert, you feel the presence of others, a mass of bodies that break through your personal bubble.

Music forms this mass of humanity, giving it structure, offering moments of tension and relaxation, breathing, vibrations of energy – moments that can be transformed into movement and gesture as soon as people tune in to each other.

This structure is usually conveyed through sound, but various musical practices around the world suggest that the experience is not limited to hearing. In fact, this can involve synchronizing visual effects and human touch.

For example, in the musical community of the deaf, sound is only a small part of the expression. In Kristin Sung Kim’s Facial Opera II, a play for pre-lingual performers, the participants “sing” without using their hands, and instead use facial expressions and movements to convey emotion. Like the line “fa-la-la-la-la” in the famous Christmas song “Deck the Halls”, words can be stripped of their meaning until there is nothing left but their emotional tone.

In some cultures, music is no different conceptually from dance, ritual, or play. For example, the Blackfeet in North America use the same word for a combination of music, dance, and ceremony. And among the Pygmies of Bayak in Central Africa, the same term denotes different forms of music, cooperation and play.

The Blackfeet, an Indian tribe, do not have separate words for music, dance and ceremony.
RJ Sangosti / The Denver Post via Getty Images

Many other groups around the world categorize collaborative activities in the same category.

They all use time markers like a regular rhythm – whether it be the sound of a pumpkin during suya. Kahran Nguere a ceremony or groups of girls chanting “Mary Mack dressed in black” in a clap game so that the participants can synchronize their movements.

Not all of these practices necessarily evoke the word “music.” But we can think of them as musical in our own way. They all teach people to act in relation to each other, teasing, directing, and even encouraging them to move together.

During. As one.

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This article is republished from – The Conversation – Read the – original article.

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