“Music dispenses with the thinking stuff, and goes straight to direct your feelings.”
Erratic percussionist for 70s band, The Police, Stewart Copeland has a put his drums away for the time being to share depth discussions on what makes us human. Copeland argues his case that it is and always has, been music. Written and directed by none other than himself, Stewart Copeland’s Adventure in Music showcases the formation of communities, the epidemic history of music in our society and decants through the layers of why music means “auditory cheesecake” for our brains to merely consume and enjoy.
As many documentaries do it begins from the start of history and more importantly, the evolution of music.
Copeland first dives into the exploration of ancient bone flutes in a desolate 40,000 year old cave somewhere off the coast of Spain. This sets off the documentary off to a slow start but soon delves into a crucial thesis for the entirety of the documentary. Music has always played an important factor of evolution competition, and has developed our group identity into the community. To put into Lamen’s terms, it seems that we have played music to fight off rivals and court with the prettiest Neanderthal of the tribe. Funny, because it seems that tradition has not changed to this day. Your average nightclub is rife with dopamine, as efforts fly left and right as music accompanies this awkward phase of mating.
While it begins with a rather slow start sharing and exploring vague ideas such as “what is music?,” and “why does music make us dance?,” it often trails into a good debate Copeland has with avid philosopher Professor Steven Pinker. While Copeland takes the side of his thesis that music makes us human – Pinker has a direct approach to the depiction of music, with it being seen as nothing more to “auditory cheesecake” for us to enjoy.
“Music could vanish from our species and the rest of our lifestyle would be completely unchanged.” (How The Mind Works, Pinker, 1997)
Professor Steven Pinker, the author of How The Mind Works, ultimately argues that we may have an utilitarian approach to music, that it has to be good for us to be truly worthy. He then goes on to state, why does it have to provide any other function other than for us to enjoy it? It seems that Pinker views music at its most standard format – nothing more than “pudding for the ears.”
Can this really be true? I believe that music is imbedded into our very human development and cognitive abilities. Ultimately, sound comes before language. We use rhythm and pitch to learn the alphabet, before we have strung two words together to form a sentence. So how can music be seen as a mere listening device to make us feel good? It seems to me that this comes across like we are actively looking for ways to see how impactful music really is, just to justify our argument. We’re not justifying anything. Funny thing is, we don’t have to prove this.
All we have to do is look at our life and see how music connects us to it all. Copeland also uses his contacts well in this documentary, and analyses this hypothesis with fellow bandmate, Sting.
While Darwin, master of the evolution theory, states that music is just to create ambience while we procreate, Sting states that music provides a “touchstone to emotional memory.”
Aptly put, it creates points in your timeline you can go back to and overlook once more. The first dance, the first party, the loss of a loved one, that first feeling of excitement. It all connects. This gives a further understanding of how healthy our society is, when you strip away the psychology of music, and just come to terms with it on a personal level. I mean, this argument certainly holds true to a man like Sting, who is known for his blistering career in the music industry, so perhaps his argument is slightly one-sided. It certainly holds true for someone who relies on the “emotional memory” to sell more records. Regardless, the point stands.
I think the point I’m trying to make throughout this is that, music is more than just playing your favourite song when you fancy a sing-a-long. On the basis, sure .. But, music connects us to each other like never before. It has bonded us together, forming group identity, lasting communities and allows to embrace one another from different societies across the world, regardless if you cannot speak the same language; you can most definitely share the same feelings for that Michael Jackson song.
Through the thick of it, sound comes before language. As an instinctive human trait, sound allows us to learn and develop ourselves without us even knowing it. Described as “human plumage”, music is a collective, and we’re still collecting it.
If what Pinker says above is true, then that is not a lifestyle I want to be a part of.