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April 28, 2010

the aesthetic value of music (in general and in particular)

Please forgive me, as I am tired and wrote this entry in a very brief period of time, and it is majorly asking for an edit!

I spent twenty minutes (and more) listening to traditional Arabic music-something I am hardly familiar with besides the occasional context in which, at recess in middle school, a kid would mock the throaty vocal characteristic of Arabic music-the “ohohhhooaaaaaoahhhaoooohha”, as I like to call it. The instruments, I noticed while listening, are extremely unique, nothing like the typical bass, guitar and drum combination westerners like to use. Much of the instrument combination is various percussion and stringed instruments, including the flute and tambourine. In summary, the Arabic music is beautiful.
The music, perhaps because it is so foreign or maybe because I attribute it to a specific cultural backdrop, compels me to think of a different world. It is a world enraptured with loud music, religious enthusiasm, and dancing. The world is full of caramel colored people wearing flowing, richly colored robes and people forgetting their troubles to come together in song. Listening to Arabic style music makes me think of the war in Iraq and how we as Americans like to separate ourselves so much from the Middle Eastern culture, categorizing the people as Muslim terrorists when in reality they are a culture much like America; they write, think, talk, love, hope, sing, and make music. They are not all Muslims just like Americans aren’t all Christians. I feel strongly that people need to get out of their comfort zones more often to think of the world outside America-not simply because diversity is a good thing, but because we are not the only people group on the planet! Listening to Arabic music makes me feel that much closer to understanding a different life in a different country, and one we are fighting a ravenous war to redeem (not to mention a war that we created in the first place, but that’s a different matter).
The piece of music I chose to listen to that I am very familiar with is called “Goodbye Waves and Driveways” by one of my favorite bands, The Rocket Summer. One of the reasons I keep going back to this song is because it brings me back to my freshman year of high school, my relationship with Cody was new, when love was fresh and innocent, and life couldn’t get better. I listen to this song because it resonates with our story, our horrible break-up, and our finding each other again. This song plays a musical role in my journey because I remember when I first heard it, sitting in Cody’s pick-up truck together in a parking lot by Kroger’s grocery store, the windows down, silence pervading the air between us except for that song. It was a month before we were to break up for a year, the most heart-wrenching yet soul-searching year of my life. The song says it all. I think the reason I cherish this song so much is not merely for its aesthetic value through the instrumental piece and vocals, but the fact that the song holds value through my aesthetic experience.  I can forgive the possible annoying way Bryce screams the lyrics near the end of the song, or even that he might have been off-key on a few notes, because for me the song means more than lyrical or musical performance-it rings something true in my own life. The song is comparable to the classical piece because it causes me to think and reflect on things other than the technicalities of the musical piece. But again, the Arabic music is entirely separate from the music I, an American, experience in everyday life, so it does not lead me to reflect on my own life, but that of other places and cultures. Both pieces are good in their own lights, and both are necessary in understanding aesthetic value-in my own life and in the world at large. I would be missing something aesthetically essential if I did not experience both.

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