We all desire connection. With friends, family, community. We even desire connection to the past.
Music provides a way to connect with the past. When I hear “Roxanne” by the Police, I think of high school. Of friends and school dances.
When I hear Meditation from Massenet’s Opera, Thais, I think of my grandmother and how she loved when I would visit and play that song for her.
Music is inherently connected to a time and place. It is a response to the events and culture that surround the composer. And its relevance is connected with the events and culture of the listener.
As I’ve gotten older, I can more easily understand why people have strong affinity to a particular style of music. It is our desire for connection with the people and time we associate with the music.
I wish that I could have a do-over on some conversations I’ve had with friends and family. Instead of technical and, sometimes argumentative, discussions about the value of a song, I wish I had been more curious about the stories and memories that were attached to the song. An interesting story can be a gateway to appreciating a song.
Why should my students be interested in a piece of music like Massenet’s Meditation? It is a beautiful song that is disconnected from their lives. But my students know and like me. So, before we start the song, I tell them a story about my grandmother and visiting when I was a boy and swimming in her pond that was home to an alligator.