Music is inextricably human. Whether at a concert, in a jam session, or just listening to an album alone in your room, music is a unique connection to ourselves and others, a window into who we are as people – through music, we understand each other and strengthen our empathy. Our fascination with music is a wonderful phenomenon: while it isn't necessary to our survival in the same way that food and sleep are, it has such a monumental impact on us that we can't imagine life without it.
Music is a unique connection to ourselves and others. Through music, we understand each other.
Over the course of COVID-19, a time of social divide and isolation on a scale we could never have imagined, it was the arts that provided us with connection and comfort time and time again. Listening to songs we’ve loved for years gave us a sense of familiarity we could always rely on, some sameness that we desperately clung to and found safety in when everything around us was changing in the strangest of ways. Music became a potent and much-needed reminder that there are some things that are eternal and unshakable, as though it became an old friend we could return to whenever we needed to feel known and understood. In live-streamed concerts and listening parties across the world, music prevailed even through the darkest of times and kept us connected despite our physical distance.
When music has the ability to release dopamine, strengthen memory and auditory skills, and promote empathetic and affiliative behaviour, it is clear to see that it plays an invaluable role in enhancing our wellness, which has profound effects on every aspect of life. Unfortunately, many are robbed of the chance to even explore music in the first place, lacking the financial means necessary, particularly due to funding cuts leading to the erasure of arts subjects in schools. In times like these, it is essential that we band together to do all we can to create opportunities to play and experience music with one another. The impact this will have on us will last a lifetime.
To get you inspired, here are some brilliant projects and organisations that revolve around providing opportunities to experience music for people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities, from all over the world.
The Recycled Orchestra is a children’s orchestra formed by Paraguayan music teacher Favio Chavez in 2012, in which every instrument is fashioned out of scrap materials gathered from Asunción's Cateura landfill. By transforming rubbish into music, the orchestra provided its members with hope through this new opportunity they made for themselves – and has inspired similar projects all around the world. When music was made accessible to these children, their horizons were broadened and their possibilities were made infinite, performing in over 40 countries, and alongside Metallica and Stevie Wonder.
Paraorchestra is the world’s only large-scale virtuoso ensemble for professional musicians both with and without disabilities. Assembled by conductor Charles Hazlewood, Paraorchestra has reshaped common perceptions of what an orchestra should be – a specific kind of music, played by and for a specific class. With music being the truly human experience that it is, it is only right for all prejudices in musical spheres to be shattered, in favour of embracing music-making that welcomes every kind of sound and person.
Youth Music is a charity that works to support young people in their musical endeavours, aiming to reinvigorate music education through a more inclusive, relevant, and inspiring curriculum, and creating a more accessible pathway between music education and the music industry.
Coldplay have been striving to make their concerts more inclusive for as many people as possible, partnering with KultureCity to cater to those with sensory needs, offering sign language interpreters and SubPacs (a tactile audio system that allows the wearer to feel the music’s bass through vibrations) for D/deaf audience members, and providing touch tours for the blind.
Music is something we all have the potential to connect with and everyone deserves to have the chance to feel that music belongs in their life. Music and empathy are deeply interconnected, both revolving around processes of synchronisation, communication, and sharing affective experiences. Listening to music is an interaction with other people, an attempt to understand someone else's story: we immerse ourselves in their inner world, open ourselves up to their joy and sorrow, their highs and lows. Considering the long-lasting impacts music has on mental and physical health, it is integral that it is made as inclusive as possible so everyone can reap its benefits. Music is at its most powerful when it is made completely accessible to all.
When opportunities are spread freely and evenly, wonderful things happen; if everyone had equal opportunity to experience music, so many more amazing talents, ideas, thoughts, and feelings would be put out into the world for us all to learn from. Music will bring us together unlike anything else as long as we all see ourselves reflected in it.