Music teaches you how to live, it makes you feel emotions, and explains things and situations. Music can motivate, encourage, and energize. Music holds a powerful position. Music can travel across country borders, barbed wire, and conflict. Music cannot be beaten, stolen, jailed, insulted. Music is not one person’s claim; no one can own music. Music can be interpreted according to you; there’s no right or wrong way. Music is a language that can be understood universally without translation. In times of need and sadness music has the ability to unite people across cultures. Musicians are given the power to use their music as a bridge to change and social advocacy.
After World War II there was a period of time of unparalleled energy. African American soldiers had returned from war and demanded equal rights. Numerous ways of resisting racial segregation and discrimination included civil disobedience, protests, boycotts, and marches. The people who would fight for their American freedom did so without a weapon to kill or the urge to kill. They had one means of protection, however, music. With a strong mind, a song in their heart, a want to be free, they sang through the thickness. Music was a fundamental part of the Civil Rights Movement. Music had given them courage. When non-violent protestors came together they faced beatings, fire hoses, shootings, and jail. They didn’t have any source of protection other than the strength they gained from music. People that went through these trying times , “sang, in order to uplift their spirits and keep their minds focused on what they were trying to achieve.” (45, Hast)
Not only can music cause unity to fight for a cause but it can also bring people together to help out others. On January 12, 2010 Haiti suffered a 7.0 magnitude earthquake. There were 316,000 lives lost (Archibold). Musicians came together in order to create “We Are the World 25 for Haiti” – a remake the 1985 recording for Africa. Within three days of releasing the song had sold over 267,000 downloads. People came together to purchase a song that was created by over eighty musicians (Who). The money was put forward to help with the aid and restoration of a country that did not have enough resources to care for all of it’s people. The creation of one song brought together the globe in order to raise awareness.
In history, sometimes, two opposing sides have been known to come together in peace. Granted, not often in song, but it can happen. In 1914, World War I launched the first substantial European war of the 20th century. Soldiers were told they would have a victory by Christmas but it was a false hope as it lasted for four years.On Christmas Eve of 1914 the British saw the Germans lighting candles and holding small Christmas trees. The message was clear: the Germans, who celebrated Christmas on December 24, were giving holiday greetings to the opposing side. “And then they sang ‘Silent Night’ – ‘Stille Nacht.’”(Vinciguerra) Both sides laid down their weapons and joined in the middle. There was an undeclared truce. Even though the war resumed on December 26th there was still a welcomed pause. One song, a holiday necessity, had shown unity between two opposing sides. Gifts were traded and hands were shaken. A song had stopped a war.
Unity is a condition of harmony. When people unite they come together for a common purpose. Unity is friendship, family, alliances. It is being undivided; standing together in both positive times and harsh times. It is multiple parts working together to create one great system. Unity is when people work better together than divided.
Every second period of junior year, I would walk to the far side of Oakcrest High School and enter band class. I would pull out my beaten case and construct my alto saxophone for the one-thousand-three-hundred-and-twenty-second time. Second row up in front of Mr. Schwartz is where you can find me hidden behind a music stand. On that stand would be a foreign language; just dots mottled on the pages. I know how to decode that language. I can play that language in three different dialects: saxophone, piano, and clarinet.
But, that isn’t the impressive part. When everyone would calm down, when the drummers ceased banging on snare drums, when trumpets stopped running their scales we would start. We didn’t just play our instruments. The clarinets begin with melody playing soft runs and mallet percussion help them reach their goal of measure eight. There, trumpets begin a fanfare that could be played at a royal procession. All of the instruments meet up at measure twenty-five with melodies and harmonies with the bass drum matching with our ecstatic heartbeats.
Music can not be achieved without unity. Even soloists, just one body and one instrument, can create unity through phrasing and technique. But, with a band it is much greater than that. A band cannot succeed if every member plays at 95%. Everyone must play everything correct or the piece falls apart. It is easy to depend on one person, but when there is forty people is when trust really takes place. A band becomes a well oiled machine with numerous parts creating one large system of beauty, defiance, and majesty all in one composition.
Music can teach us about unity. This is vital because unity is something that keeps the world functioning. Whether it is a school ensemble, a youth group, a sports team, a business, or a government unity needs to be practiced. Everyone must be able to be on the same path to reach the same goals. The question may be asked, why if unity is so important that it is absent in so many teams? We see teams of all sorts as being dysfunctional. This is because it isn’t simple to be unified. There are always going to be obstacles and negative forces getting in the way of perfect unity. That is why we must look at what music can teach us. It shows the hours of sitting at home with song recordings and sheet music trying to form that perfect sound.
It shows the hours of rehearsals where the band director formulates how to make the trombones and the baritone saxaphone play together in perfect harmony. If we can look at the unity of Lynyrd Skynyrd in “Freebird” or Led Zeppelin in “Stairway to Heaven” or Metallica in “Nothing Else Matters” we can learn from them. Maybe we could fix some things. When it is noticed that musicians can realize that without practice and pacifism towards others in band can truly accomplish things. It is hard to relate music to government but if the government could see what musicians can accomplish maybe they could accomplish more. Government is vital and there needs to be compromises, however, so much time is put into just winning the election that they forget why they are really there. They are there to compose their own music (laws) and the only way they can do that is if they can work together in unity.
Music has certain powers that other things do not. Music can break down social boundaries, halt wars, and raise awareness. Unity can bring people together in order to create a purpose. Music can teach us about unity and the way we should be living our lives. We need to have courage, we need to stop conflict, and we need to notice other people than ourselves. Music has the ability to do all of this. Music has the ability to change the world one note at a time.
Archibold, Randal C. “Haiti: Quake’s Toll Rises to 316,000.” The New York Times. 14 Jan. 2011. The New York Times. 20 Dec. 2012 . Hast, Dorothea E. Exploring the world of music. 2nd ed.: Kendall/Hunt Company, 1999. Vinciguerra, Thomas. “The Truce of Christmas, 1914.” The New York Times 25 Dec. 2005. 13 Dec. 2012 . “Who Do You Think You Are? Season Two.” NBC.com. 20 Dec. 2012 .
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