One of the things that intrigues me about these open musical spaces I have been exploring is how people are drawn to come out and share personal music. There is a wide range of talent and training represented, as well as very different feelings about performing. Some people have finished a draining workday and are bursting to share a song they just wrote while others are using all their courage to take their compositions out of the living room and into a public forum. And there they are – waiting to be a part of the music.
Over the summer I read a couple of books that touch on how we are connected to the creative instinct that draws amateur musicians out of the closet.
In her book, “If You Want to Write”, Brenda Ueland puts forward the idea that everyone has the potential to write, whether poetry, stories, songs; it is a natural impulse present in children that is winnowed out of us as we mature and become more self conscious and preoccupied with the practicalities of day to day living. She urges us to give expression to our imaginations, let the ideas flow without critiquing and censoring ourselves, for the simple joy of knowing ourselves better and participating in the creative process. My favourite chapter is entitled: “Why women who do too much housework should neglect it for their writing”; I wonder how contentious a statement this would have been in 1938 when the book was published? It would be a stretch to claim that I do too much housework but I really love the sentiment.
Brian Levitin (“This is Your Brain on Music”) describes how our brains are hardwired to derive pleasure from music, that we have an inherent ability to understand musical patterns which is then shaped by our cultural milieu. Another interesting point he makes is that it is a recent human development (last 500 yrs) that music has become the realm of the expert: the performer, the rock star, the prodigy. It is likely that music is among the oldest human activities as evidenced by instruments found in ancient archeological sites; in existing societies around the world participatory music and dance are integral parts of celebration, mourning, rites of passage, and story telling. The expectation is that everyone sings, everyone dances to the extent that people speak and people move.
Let’s revive – from our childhood, from our ancestors – this social and expressive activity and make it part of our present.