Last night, a few friends and I watched (Untitled), a movie that, in short, satirizes the culture of modern art. I can’t say that it was a particularly brilliant film or that we actually finished watching it, but it did get me thinking about the true essence of music. In the movie, the main character is a struggling composer whose pieces are essentially a cacophony of sound. This includes atonal clarinet solos combined with bucket-kicking and paper-ripping. While the individual sounds were interesting, together it was rather unpleasant and stilted. Defending his music, the character states that harmony is a capitalist ploy to sell pianos.
Though it is a humorous line intended to reveal the pretentious nature of such composers, I couldn’t help but feel a little sad for the character. He has clearly never experienced the magical feeling of a perfectly constructed harmony breaking over him. Nor has he felt the relief you experience when a melody is resolved or the contrasting tension when the song catches you off guard and takes you places you never expected.
What is music but a fight against the entropy of random noise? Admittedly, this a slightly warped version of a professor’s quote that life is the fight against entropy, but I find it to be quite apt. Music has the power to take the disorder that is ever present throughout life and channel it into something beautiful. It gives both a context for and a way to relate to the vast array of emotions and feelings in the world around us.
Granted, music, as with any art form, is subjective and open to interpretation. However, when you are listening to something honest, raw, and without pretense, you are able to take away truths about yourself. A little self-discovery every once in a while is not a bad thing. You could even use music to escape the world for a while. In any case, you are not sending a grand message into the world by kicking a bucket and calling it music.