Music: The Highest Art Form, The Beginnings of Change (A Short Essay)
Updated: Jul 12
Music to me is an important catalyst for change and it defines culture; it demonstrates the versatility of language and how no barriers can corrupt the sounds we absorb and let run through us. I have been a music student almost my whole life; singing in the choir until the eighth grade, then joining the band elective in high school, and even some music clubs too. From my experiences, I find that it is the most valuable art form, as it can be translated into other artistic pursuits as well.
Vincent Van Gogh had a strong relationship with music throughout his whole life, particularly classical music and the piano. I read a book about it called Van Gogh and Music: A Symphony in Blue and Yellow by Natascha Veldhorst, translated by Diane Webb, if any of you are interested in learning more about this. A quote from page 146 says, “In Van Gogh’s time, music symbolized the craving for a new artistic freedom” (Veldhorst, Webb). Music has always been relevant, and a mold for society’s values and culture. Its evolution into modern forms of expression, as well as visual art, has guided each other through centuries of exploration and growth.
Recently, The Whitney Museum in New York City had an exhibit on a group of Harlem-based photographers called The Kamoinge Workshop, which I have visited two separate times myself! I got different ideas from it after each, their photography is just so profound and thought-provoking to me. I also went to an online seminar, or “webinar” as they say, on February 3rd, where some of these photographers were interviewed about the relationship between their work and Harlem, New York. The conversation turned to music and the importance of musicians at the time they were active, which was the 1950s-1960s. One of the photographers, Anthony Barboza, said, “Music vibrates the bones and the way you move, and you carry that from ancestor to ancestor.” This line really struck me and he also proclaimed that music is the most important art form because of the relationship it provides between generations, and between other artistic mediums. It influenced their works and inspired meaning into their photography.
Regarding my own experiences, I have been a musician all my life; I started off as a choir singer in elementary and middle school, participating in some competitions too as I got older. In high school I began experimenting with instruments: the saxophone was my constant all four years, I played percussion for music clubs, and I started learning the guitar as a senior. It felt like my escape from school, as much as I struggled a lot with learning instruments I knew nothing about, I had a lot of fun. I felt like music balanced out with my academic experience, which was consistently stressful and I didn’t really feel supported unless I was in the band room, as we called it.
Music is a more inconsistent part of my life now, as an online college student. It is truly hard to find the motivation to create, but I still value music, so I make it a priority to listen to it every day! I always discover new artists and tracks, and I listened to 31,340 minutes of music last year according to Spotify. Some singers I discovered during the pandemic include Rina Sawayama, Ruel, and Blu DeTiger. Recently I have been listening a lot to Sam Cooke, Rina Sawayama of course, ABBA, and Aretha Franklin. I love all kinds of music and I think the key to that is to always have an open mind and consider the importance of the music, whether to the time period during which it came out, or to the artist.
I would like to end this with a list of eight songs I love right now! Their lyrics are beautiful stories of reflection and relationships, both to other people and to the self, and I hope you’ll give them a listen!
A Change is Gonna Come by Sam Cooke
Chosen Family by Rina Sawayama
A Letter to my Younger Self by Ambar Lucid
Yesterday by Noname
I’m Like a Bird by Nelly Furtado
Chain Gang by Sam Cooke
Self Control by Frank Ocean
You Send Me by Aretha Franklin
**The Aretha Franklin song is actually a cover of one of Sam Cooke’s songs!