Why music? Well, why not music? Who doesn’t listen to music. Who has never been moved by music. Who has never exclaimed, ‘Oh, I love this song!’ Who has never been inspired by the prowess of a good guitarist playing live. Who has never had their mood completely turned on its head by music?
Music means so much to people; crossing cultures, countries and continents to bring us together in a shared love. Music provides and provokes thoughts, courage, inspiration, as well as a common language we can all speak, paving the way for global social movements.
Recognising this power, we decided to start an online conversation a few months back, because we wanted to know more. Why is music so important, and how can we use it to promote social change and bring more awareness to the charitable sector here in New Zealand.
Keeping it short and sweet we only asked two questions, kicking off with a question about why music inspires. And not too surprisingly, a number of people told us about the exhilaration, joy and transformative experiences they have with live music.
‘For me, there is nothing better than live music. I live for it. Gigs where it seems as though the crowd are entranced set my soul on fire! If I were religious, live music would be my church.’ - Annie
‘Few moments in life cause the hairs to stand up on the back of your neck, but something that does it regularly for me is music. Whether it’s hearing my favourite songs for the thousandth time, seeing an amazing live performance, or discovering a new band or movement.’ - Nic
‘I love hip hop music and when my sister started performing I knew she had something special. Her piano rap means the most. I get to see a part of her, through her words and rhythm, that would be trapped if it weren’t for music.’ - Hannah
The performative aspect came through loud and clear too, for those taking to the stage or doing their thing in-studio.
‘As a musician, being able to play an instrument with uninhibited creativity is the most liberating and rewarding experience I can think of.’ - Grant Lister
‘I make music for one simple reason: I care about people and the planet. You can’t see it, touch it, taste it or smell it, but molecules of air vibrating against eardrums can move hearts the world over, build bridges where there were once divides and break down the walls that separate us from each other and our minds from our bodies and souls.’ - Michael Franti
Michael Franti talks about music and a connection that is quite spiritual, creating something intangible that often has strength beyond what we can hold in our hands. Many people also identified with this spiritual, and somewhat mystical, facet of inspiration.
‘Little moments of magic are inspired by music; being a long way from home and hearing a quintessentially Kiwi tune – pure joy at the time. In these moments I feel simultaneously at peace with myself (a lovely thing because I overthink and worry by nature) and beautifully part of the world and universe around us.’ - Liz
‘It calms me, it energises me, sometimes it makes me see things from a different perspective. Sometimes music seems to speak to me on an unconscious level making me feel things I can’t explain.’ - Mica
This mysticism and otherworldliness is part of something much bigger, that without a doubt music inspires, creates, encourages, displays and provokes emotion. And this emotive power that music instills and imparts, it delves deeply into the hearts and minds of many of us.
‘Music moves me! Hearing songs my dad sang to me as a child, or that were popular at milestones of my life, transport me and fill me with emotion. There are a few songs that bring tears to my eyes in the first few bars.’ - Angie
‘When I hear a song that feels like it has been written about me and my feelings but has really been written by someone else about themselves and their own feelings, it feels like magic. And it feels like someone saying, “I understand”, without having to actually say something so patronising as that.’ - Anna
‘I experienced great loss of my partner and unborn child. This weight was almost unbearable to continue on with except when I was playing music for those few minutes, really uniting myself with that moment consciously and with no holds barred.’ - Devon Welch
‘Music got me through so many tough times. Listening to and writing music helps me express my feelings, and helps me express society’s feelings.’ - Alice
The second question we asked was about generosity – how does music already tie in with generosity and how can it spark more generosity in this world.
‘There are many initiatives that facilitate the fan’s support of the musician. For example, PledgeMe, Kickstarter, Bandcamp. I am amazed at the generosity I have seen through such platforms. And this generosity ultimately leads to more music being made, so its effect on music is very healthy.’ - Thomas Oliver
‘Musicians and bands are increasingly using profile/status to highlight issues and movements that are important to them. Some that may otherwise not get any exposure.’ - Nic
Emotion, it seems, is key here too, giving music and musicians the ability to tap into people’s desire to do good.
‘It has the power of emotion as its foundation. It can instantly shortcut people to their rawest feelings and become immediately empathetic.’ - Devin Abrams
‘Music is an intangible entity that can be transferred so easily in this technological age. It’s such an “easy” thing to give someone and empower them.’ - Hiren
That music brings people together and connects us is another essential that people noted; breaking down barriers, creating a shared language and uniting people for a common cause.
‘The simple fact that it doesn’t ask anything from its listeners makes it compelling to listen to, and all sorts of important messages can be conveyed without having to break down walls first.’ - Dee
‘I believe that music is a logical first step on the journey to generosity. It creates togetherness, which in turn becomes community, and when we get to know our communities, we are more willing to support them.’ - Emily
‘Music has the ability to bring people together like no other medium. When you can harness this energy with good faith then extremely powerful things can be achieved and activated.’ - Tiki Taane
‘The sharing of music is like a collective conscience, whereby individuals can be brought together by a similar appreciation for the music. This grows connections, spreads understanding and love, and in general has a positive impact on us. “Pay it forward” can quite literally start with a song.’ - Kate
So again, why music? From the responses above – and the multitude we received but couldn’t squeeze into these pages – it’s pretty clear that music has almighty, superhuman powers. Making people feel feelings, bringing people together, providing inspiration and innovation, creating movement and movements that collectively provide opportunities for us to be better human beings.
‘Music is power. It has the power to work human minds. It has the power to change one’s mood. It has the power to change someone’s life.’ - Iva Lamkum
As far as bringing more awareness to the charitable work happening in our fair country, it’s pretty obvious that working with musicians and the power of music is a no-brainer. But another equally important thing to remember is that every little act of generosity carries meaning. As there are layers of sound in any song, there are also layers of generosity – and each layer is necessary to mix and master the final track. So if you’re not ready to be lead singer yet, that’s okay. Don’t underestimate the power of backing vocals ... we all know every track needs beats, and even the little triangle ting-a-lings are important. You can always be involved and you will be making a difference with whatever you have to give.
‘The act of creating music is itself inherently generous – every musician is open and generous by sharing their emotions with others. When this generosity is joined with something external (like playing for charity) that generosity becomes contagious.’ - Nikki
Illustrations by Natasha Vermeulen. Words by Ren Kirk & friends