The Value of Music: Research Paper.
The value of music is ambiguous. How people value music can be branched into a million different directions but it can also be compressed into the single statement from Jacques Attali ‘Music is more than an object of study: it is a way of perceiving the world.’
Historically, music was used as a method of communication; Minstrels being evidence of this. Minstrels were wanderers acting as a form of entertainment as they passed through towns performing ballads and tales to the townspeople. Linking this to Attali’s statement, for such folk, minstrels were their only source of news and thus the words they were conveying were perceived as absolute truth; shaping how people perceived the world. Therefore, while music did act as a spectacle because of its sheer rarity, its role as the primary news source in medieval Britain meant it held such high value.
In comparison to the role music holds in the modern world, there are similarities and differences between the two. Music is still able to act as a news-source but arguably not to such a substantial value. Take Beyoncé’s 2016 single ‘Formation’ for example -which discussed the themes of police brutality and marginalisation of black people particularly in the USA. This was both topical and relevant to news and so was a source of information but as the news could be collected in other formats it does not hold such high value.
Another angle we can take to understand how we value music is the concept of ‘The Aura’ put forth by Walter Benjamin. He formulates the idea that an original piece (for example of art or music) has an aura, meaning it is of a certain quality. He argues that once we begin to replicate and reproduce – even exploit the piece as far as we can – the quality of the piece decreases and it loses its aura. The Mona Lisa is a prime example of such idea; while the original piece remains of high monetary value, because we can now access it incredibly easily, its value as a piece of artwork to most individuals is no longer as high as previous when there were fewer copies.
Linking this to music, because we are now over-saturated with music and methods to be able to access it (such as streaming, YouTube, CD’s, or even Vinyl), the value of the music has decreased to us. For all stated formats, we are now able to access the music at the touch of the button and listen to it instantly. Does this lack of physicality and effort mean that we have lost the sheer thrill or buzz of putting on and listening to an album? We can move on from songs quickly to a completely new artist or to a completely different genre without less than a thought (or even a shuffle.) The aura has now gone.
The value of music today is still significant. As well as holding educational value and emotional value, more recently music has advanced to also play a role in the world of medication, having the ability to provoke psychological reactions and influence the cardiovascular system. To conclude, this suggests that we will continue to find uses for music in more sectors of society, consequently increasing its value and worth to us. However, is it’s worth now more significant than its value throughout history? That is a matter of opinion.
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