The Role of Music in a Global Pandemic

Article by Marcus Coleridge

Artwork By Sisi Ip

What is music? Taken at face value one could describe it simply as the organisation of sound in order to create an aurally pleasing experience, comprised of basic sonic principals from chords and harmony to the capabilities of the instruments you’re using. Yet music is not something that can be looked at from such a black and white perspective. It is a songwriter’s art form. Composers are uniquely capable of manipulating these principals into a profound experience which can connect with an audience on a far more personal level.

No matter your orientation on musical genres, music is something that affects us all on a far deeper level than we sometimes care to realise. I would go so far as to say that over 90% of people who read this article have some form of subscription to a music streaming service such as Spotify, Deezer or Apple Music. With unfettered access to our music, anyone with a device connected to the internet can listen to Mozart one minute and Adele the next from anywhere on the planet. This globalised culture that we have created envelops us in music and has expanded not only the styles of music that we listen to, but the music that is being produced too, allowing more artists the opportunity to share their talents. The industry is booming, with more music than ever being produced and more people than ever listening to that music.

Music is a deeply personal and individual experience. In the same sense that no two people see the same rainbow, no two people hear a piece of music in exactly the same way. We are all programmed differently to hear and appreciate music uniquely, from making you get up and dance to bringing a tear to your eye; it is an experience specific to you. It is this emotion and individuality that I believe has given music a fundamental role in getting the world through this pandemic. From Captain Tom Moore’s No.1 single with Michael Ball to locals performing to their neighbours, music has been an unwavering undercurrent through the pandemic. Musicians across the country have come together through this time to enlighten us, be it through a Zoom call, YouTube, or a live stream to school peers, music has been there to support us. Music is undeniably unifying force that has brought people together through such a time of forced separation.

Many aspects of a piece of music combine to create the emotive experience that we seek when choosing what to listen to: the key signature of a piece, the chords, the lyrics, the instruments, whether it’s a male or female vocalist, the length of the piece, the speed of the piece, the list continues. Yet these building blocks of music are manipulated by a composer or songwriter in order to evoke a specific emotion from a piece of music. From the rallying anthem of Queen’s, We Are the Champions to the tranquillity of Chopin’s Nocturnes, music helps us to express our emotions in a way that no other cultural phenomenon can. We form a deeply empathetic relationship with our music, and we use it to support us through good times and bad.

The deeply personal, yet globally appreciated experience gained from listening to music has stood the test of time and will continue to support and unite society for generations to come. No matter your tastes or cultural background, music is an unbiased and unwavering constant that provides an escape from the worries of a global pandemic. As my fifth great grandfather, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, said, “An ear for music is very different from a taste for music. I have no ear whatever; I could not sing an air to save my life; but I have the intensest delight in music, and can detect good from bad.”