I believe art in all forms deserves various forms of consideration in order to gain as much as one can. Each type of consideration can be seen as looking at art through a different lens, a different perspective. One kind of consideration is analysis. This is combing through a song, a film, or a painting to find meaning or messaging by examining symbolism, historical context, and artistic choices made by the creator of the work.
As a culture, we are very comfortable with using an analytical lens especially with books, film, and television shows. We consume these and understand that there is some underlying message about human nature, society, or something along those lines. That underlying message is a major part of the value of the experience. While Margaret Atwood’s book The Handmaids Tale and the Hulu series of the same name are wonderfully produced pieces, fans of the story also love it for how it makes them think. While Atwood’s prose about the narrator experiencing the breeze or looking out her bedroom window is a beautiful thing to read, a lot of the value of the book comes from the audience analyzing how notions of love or justice are presented in the story.
I believe that as a culture, we do not apply this analytical lens to music as much as we should. There is so much music out there with so much meaning to be found in analyzation. IDLES’ 2017 album Joy as an Act of Resistance. is full of symbolism, satire, and morals. One could focus on how the album deals with masculinity, racism, addiction, mourning, and finding happiness despite all of that. The analysis side of music is something I love so much. However, I can understand how it isn’t always the most exciting thing in the world. With an emphasis on analysis also comes an assumption that people have the time to sit down and think about what an album means to them.
The main consideration which is a lot more popular is, of course, experience. Way more people listen to music than study it or read about it. Experience is arguably the most essential aspect of music. How can we gain anything, whether it be understanding or appreciation, from a piece if we do not have any experience of it at all? How do you explain what jazz is to someone who has never heard it? You may be able to explain jazz as a combination of genres they are familiar with. However, it is possible that the best way to help them gain understanding is to play them some Miles Davis.
What is the peak of musical experience but not a live concert? Recently I went to the IDLES show at the 9:30 Club and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. While I love thinking about what their music means to me, my participation in that magical night will always be my most important takeaway. Being pushed around in various mosh pits throughout the night made me feel like I was a part of something greater and that gave me an indescribable energy, almost being like a single drop of water in a hurricane. It was, by far, the loudest show I have ever been too. If I hadn’t brought earplugs, my ears would still be ringing. Everything about the show was absolutely incredible.
I could try to encapsulate this night of mine in an article and try to let people understand how intoxicatingly wonderful it was, but there may always be something missing. Experience is the most vital lens to see music through. While thinking and writing about it are things that I enjoy and believe are important, these things are supplementary. They work to enhance what we have already experienced. I doubt, however, that contemplation and analysis will ever be a viable replacement for simply going out to see some live music.