The Medium is the Music?

McLuhan talks about, among other things, the medium being the key of how the message is transmitted and received by its target audience. With the focus on music as the medium of transmission, desired messages can be shared in unique ways that strike close to the core of who we are as humans. As described by MIT, music is a “pervasive environmental influence” (1).  This is also in accordance with McLuhan’s thoughts on hearing being the one thing that is always present, and most importantly, the thing we tend to ignore most. Is hearing believing? If so, how does music influence our beliefs?

In my opinion, music today is one of the purest connections we have with our ancestors. According to National Geographic, music in the past may have helped to unite groups (2), and today it does the same thing, albeit in a slightly different way. That is to say, it unites us with our past. How often do you hear a song and feel the need to move in response? How can a different beat change your day? Do you feel the music, have it your head all day? I know that I experience this on a daily basis.

Because of this connection the message transmitted through music can speak to us very deeply, whether it be a political message, an emotional one, or one that simply makes us think and alter our perspective. This ability is rare in today’s world, with a media environment that is pervasive and in a constant state of flux, a constant rushing inundation of the newest, the breaking, and the trending. Yet, if we take a 3 minute respite from the flood and engage our hearing and let ourselves feel completely, our entire state of consciousness can change. Have you ever walked into a church and heard the hymns? Or heard chanting of monks? Regardless of one’s level of spirituality (I admit that mine is nonexistent) the sound can make one feel more in touch with one’s essence and direction.

This potential once again reinforces McLuhan’s claim that hearing is the one sense that is always present, and possibly his assertion that hearing is believing. We do tend to take things more seriously when said in song, do we not? There’s a reason that love songs are so popular, and that John Cusack’s character used a boom box to get the girl in the classic movie “Say Anything”. We all know that the right soundtrack can alter our beliefs and emotions, and most of the time it will strengthen them, and make us feel and believe more deeply and profoundly than before.

The medium is the music. The music transmits feeling and belief across generations that disappeared long ago, and will continue to do so in the future. It’s inherent in the way that mothers sing to their babies, and the way that we create rhythm all around us. As stated in one of my favorite movies, August Rush, “The music is all around us. All you have to do is listen”.  The omnipresence of music unites us, and despite our other media cluttering us more and more with each day, there will always be the place inside of us that connects with the past, and our true nature.

1 Minsky, Marvin. “Music, Mind, and Meaning.” Music, Mind, and Meaning. MIT, 1981. Web. 05 Feb. 2015. <https://web.media.mit.edu/~minsky/papers/MusicMindMeaning.html&gt;.

2  Silver, Marc. “Why Did Humans Invent Music?” National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 24 Aug. 2013. Web. 01 Feb. 2015. <http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/08/130824-invention-music-phish-stevie-wonder-blurred-lines-robin-thicke/&gt;.

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3 thoughts on “The Medium is the Music?”

  1. I liked what you said about how music connects us with past generations. Its very true. We can still listen today to music that was written ages ago. Songs written by composers hundreds of years ago can still be recognized today and are being learned by today’s musicians.

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  2. One thing that I think allows music to persist is the fact that it is so accessible for nearly everyone. These days, you can listen to your music nearly anywhere with mp3 players and laptops. Along with that, it’s one of cheapest forms of entertainment that allows large groups of people to connect and even have unique experiences with the same song.

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  3. I liked this post. I agree with the fact that we take things more to heart when we hear it in a song. I speculate in saying that a lot of popular catch phrases you hear in everyday life came directly from a song and people feel the need to express that more and more (pretty sure that “yolo” and “or nah” both came from rap songs). I also liked your reference to the national geographic quote. I never entertained the thought of tribes forming around the music that they played. Great job!

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