100 years ago, most homes in the United States had pianos. It was a sign of culture, but also a means of having music in the house. My grandmother used to tell me stories about going into music shops where pianists would play the sheet music that you were interested in. Singing clubs and groups flourished throughout the country as well, and barbershop quartets could be found even in rural America. Public schools had music classes, and young children learned how to read music right along with letters and numbers.
So, what happened?
My personal belief is that we’ve moved from being “Music Makers” to “Music Consumers”. We let someone else make the music and we sit back and consume it as if it were a product. Music is available 24/7 in any style, genre, or period. Streaming music sites now allow us to have access to music that would have cost in the THOUSANDS only ten years ago.
It’s easy with this ease of access to let ‘other people’ make music for us to enjoy rather than participating in the musical act OURSELVES. I once worked at Disney World with a group of Brazilians who in the evenings would gather together and sing with a guitar. This was their ‘social/party’ time. I sure can’t imagine American youth sitting around singing together at parties in 2014, but the idea is intriguing. I was in a madrigal group in college that would burst into 14th Century song at the drop of a hat, and not think anything of it.
Because of this focus on consumption of music, beginners in music or singing become self-conscious (“I can’t sound like that person/band/group”), and so people that normally might have participated in music become less likely to make an effort to make music. They feel that they aren’t good enough. And so they remain silent.
This is a great loss of our shared humanity. Music belongs to each and every one of us, and we all have musical expression as our birthright. Children sing with a full-throatedness that is at first funny, but should be a lesson for every adult on approaching music with enthusiasm and spirit. I recall growing up in church that the hymnals said “singing should be spirited and heart-filled”. But sadly, many churches today forego congregational singing for praise and worship bands – silencing the group experience of lifting up all voices in song. My father, who would admit that he wasn’t gifted with a prodigious voice, has ALWAYS sung in church, even though he sings the hymns down an octave in a very loud basso register! But he makes what could be referred to as a ‘joyful noise’!
I suppose this post is just my way of raising awareness of this particular issue. Make music! Wherever you are, and whatever your talent level – don’t be happy to sit idly by while someone else sings or performs. Sing in the car! Sing the shower! Don’t be a music CONSUMER! Be a music MAKER!
Your song is the only one we have. Don’t miss the chance to sing.