As a musician, I find myself frequently asking the question, “So what?” What makes a particular piece of music exceptional? What made that technique so affective? But most importantly, I feel the need to ask what the drive was behind any composition. In essence, what is the message?
Having recently studied the intellectual music of the 20th century, I have found myself nearly giving up on ever attributing “real” meaning to some contemporary “classics.” But that is for another discussion. (Though, I would be glad to take suggestions regarding this topic.) I believe that music should always translate into something deep – something that speaks to the soul. I know. It’s an ideal, and a rather romantic one at that. But if not, then so what?
I walked into the living room about a month ago and was stricken by an unusual soundtrack practically floating from the speakers of the bulky, nearly ancient television. The Book of Eli was the movie feature for the day. I had seen the movie once before, but was more or less too enamored by the plot to pay much attention to the sounds. But now, I heard before I saw; I felt inside before experiencing the outside. The music, by Atticus Ross, is quite possibly the most intriguing soundtrack I have heard. And I wonder why.
Maybe it has to do with the story. Maybe it has to do with the minimalist treatment of melody and harmony. Or maybe because it’s different? Disregarding pop artists of today, I am not one to listen much to electronically generated sounds combined and molded together into something called “music.” I guess I always attributed that to dance clubs, and my mother told me to stay away from those. But the soundtrack to The Book of Eli seems to be different. It seems to be screaming some deep message, but one that I cannot yet understand. I think because it is so … futuristic? New? Different? The message seems to be in some other language, one that I have not studied. So what allows me to catch a glimpse of something deeper?
Unfortunately, after racking my brain, I still have no answer. (Another call for help, apparently.) But I find the need to ask, “So what?” In an age when technology pervades every aspect of life, why not music? (Music, after all, says much about one’s culture.) And if it is in music, how should it be incorporated? Again, I have no answers. But in the future, I plan on paying closer attention to the innovations found in modern music, and asking myself, “So what?”