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The Weekend Vote weekend vote: Is music a necessity, or a luxury?

December 19, 2008 at 6:05 PM

Do we really NEED music?

Before you take the predictable view that food, clothing and shelter are really the only things necessary for human survival, consider the fact that pretty much every kind of human society around the globe finds ways to make music. Also, that beauty, sanity and the desire to live contribute to our desire, even our ability, to find food, clothing and shelter. We're a bit different than animals. "Outlook" is perhaps quite central to humans, in a way that it is not to rabbits or dogs or birds.

Is music a luxury, or a necessity, for humans?


From David Allen
Posted on December 19, 2008 at 7:05 PM

I'm not certain the question as asked is answerable. I can only speak for myself and I 'm not aware of any research on the group dynamics of this subject. For myself, music is definitely required for mental/spiritual well-being, however I know of those who would answer just the opposite. We do know that people are influenced by music even if they are unaware of that influence. Does this equate to 'need'? I guess I would say that strictly speaking, music is not needed but, it can help one be happier and healthier and increase the enjoyment of life; a balm for life's 'slings and arrows'.

From Benjamin K
Posted on December 19, 2008 at 7:49 PM

I would neither call it luxury nor necessity.

A person born deaf will be able to live a healthy life without any music and without any influence of music, so it's not a necessity in the sense that it is essential for life sustaining functions or even developing social skills to function in society.

A luxury on the other hand is usually something that is afforded by one group or person, but not by another, poorer group or person. That doesn't really apply to music as it is enjoyed across the entire social spectrum, regardless of wealth.

Let's say it is nourishment for both brain and psyche. In fact, one might consider it comparable to vitamins. You can live without a certain intake of certain vitamins, but you may fall sick more easily and you may not live as long as you might otherwise have.


From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on December 19, 2008 at 7:54 PM

I voted necessity, but I'd like to vote both.  I think that music that is woven into cultural, religious, family, and everyday life is a necessity.  Hymns, lullabies, national anthems.  Sessions and contra-dancing.  Celebrations of all sorts.  Kids singing "Let it Snow" at school assemblies.  Music therapy.  Playing the piano just because it's there in the corner and your fingers and soul need it.  The relationship between student and teacher as it plays out through music.  All that is a necessity.  

But I don't feel the same way about being in the audience for big performances and concerts in concert halls given by people I don't know, or even about the rigors of modern conservatory training.  I enjoy the fruits of many of these things.  I enjoy the luxury of being in the audience.   But no matter what it is, when I am a consumer only and not a participant, it's a luxury to me.  

From Robert Niles
Posted on December 19, 2008 at 8:36 PM

Some luxuries are necessary to live a peaceful life. And in many parts of the world, necessities are a luxury. (Which is my way of ducking the question....) 

From Paul G.
Posted on December 19, 2008 at 9:08 PM

In my life it is now a necessity.

I voted necessity but I would retract the vote if I could.
I would say it's both. A necessity because it gives me recognition and a way to express myself. A luxury because not everyone can have music in their life and those who do cherish it greatly.

From Royce Faina
Posted on December 19, 2008 at 10:45 PM

Robert- I think that you have a valid point, what you said is true. However, to go into the epistimology and values would overwhelm the thread.

I have seen deafr persons cellebrate a victory with dance, and at times poetry while dancing. Drums can make music.

Music can be like an essential vitamin, and at times a staple. Music is rather suple.



From Royce Faina
Posted on December 19, 2008 at 10:57 PM

I'm having edit problems!

We can use the Gist of what Robert has posted.

From Don Roth
Posted on December 19, 2008 at 11:04 PM

I do not know if music is essential or not in a global sense.  I consider music to be a necessity for me in order to be most contented.  As mentioned above however, I have almost no interest in being a or not.

From Mathias B
Posted on December 19, 2008 at 11:19 PM

I think we do not need music and we are true human beings also without music. However, at its best moments music is a most miraculous expression of humanity. That's why I love it. Amen.

From Larisa Mihaela
Posted on December 20, 2008 at 12:32 AM

I think the human being , as an elevated , and intelligent "animal" naturally tends to go to more refined  needs when his basic needs -food, air , water, shelter , sex etc . are is just who we are. I am a believer in Maslow's hierarchy of needs . Of course that , after the needs at the base of the piramid are satisfied , we will look up, to more spiritual things. I believe music , and art generally, would be in the top  of that pyramid.From this point of view, yes , music would be a necessity .

However , a hungry man will never be able to care about the lyrism in Tchaikovsky's violin concerto.( Take me for example :when I am hungry , I can't think of anything else but food . :)))or when I want chocolate...yammi...but well that is not the point :D) My point is that in times of crises, the things in the very top of the pyramid will go down first naturally.If budget becomes limitted , and your basic needs -like the need of shelter and food are threatened - than you will begin cutting out with what ...?with music lessons, concerts etc. So from this point of view , music ,looked at as an institution,is not a necessity any more.


  I would say that , however, music was a part of people's lives even when , and maybe especially when they were in crises.If you go back to times in American history when slavery was common thing , the poor black people of those times were singing a lot in the field , to make their life easier and to forget about their sad existance.(if sometimes people could just erase things in their history , or go back and make them not happen..) Also , many times we associate music with big events (sad of joyfull)and with every day life . A wedding , a funeral , church (where people express their gratitude to God through music ), the first kiss etc. Many times we may hear a song and remember of a particular person .Music does evoke emotions and memories, and we are emotional beings , whether we want it or not.

Maybe the better question would be: is classical music a necessity or a luxury today?I would like to think it is a necessity .However , how a person who is not a musician would feel about it , may be a diferent story.Maybe it's our job to prove to people why it is a necessity .And maybe the society generally should receive more musical education, to understand and respond better to classical music.

From Pauline Lerner
Posted on December 20, 2008 at 6:31 AM

Music is a necessity. 

Nietzsche said, "Without music, life would be a mistake."

It is just as important to nourish the spirit as to nourish the body.  Many people have found the strength to continue in times of severe stress by singing, especially singing with others. 

U.S. civil rights workers, for example, have told many stories of being together and anticipating police raids on them.  They kept their spirits up by singing "We Shall Overcome."  This song has been sung across the world by many groups of people groping for strength. 

The folksinger Judy Collins has said that in her darkest hours, the thing that kept her hanging on was the song "Amazing Grace." 

When a ship crashed in cold, wind swept waters off of Nova Scotia, most of the people on board left the ship in small, inflatable lifeboats, where the risk was as least as great as on the ship.  One man, alone in his lifeboat, clung to his lifeboat and to his life by singing "Mary Ellen Carter" by Stan Rogers.  The song tells the story of a broken boat, named Mary Ellen Carter, as a metaphor for a broken spirit.  Part of the song says, "No matter what you've lost, be it a home, a love a friend, like the Mary Ellen Carter rise again." 

On the night of 9/11, groups of survivors got together and sang "We Shall Overcome." 

A woman I used to know went cros country skiing with some friends in dangerously bad conditions -- snow two to three feet deep.  She fell and severely injured one shoulder.  She and her friends had to turn around and go back for help,  Her shoulder hurt terribly, and she was horribly tired.  She said that the thing that kept her going was the songs her friends sang for her. 

Jews in the Nazi concentration camps kept their spirits up by singing "The Peat Bog Soldiers," a song about reclaiming their homeland. 

During one of the Arab-Israeli wars, Isaac Stern risked his own safety to fly to Israel to give free concerts to wounded veterans and the general population.  They flocked to hear him play and felt strengthened and comforted, especially when Stern played the Sarabande from Bach's D Minor Partita.  (See my blog of July 5, 2006 for details on the Stern story). 

I could go on and on with examples.  My point is that during times of dire need, music is one of the few things that can help people carry on.  It is not a luxury.

From Tommy Atkinson
Posted on December 20, 2008 at 12:14 PM

I think the arts (music, dance, theatre, literature, etc...) are much more crucial than we realize. They make us feel validated, and give us a reason for living. Creative expression, while obviously not physically necessary like food or water, are absolutely important for our survival.

From Bethany Morris
Posted on December 20, 2008 at 12:52 PM

The work of Louise M. Pascale suggests that a lot of Afghanistan's political problems stem from the fact that the Taliban banned all music (except for a few religious forms of it) for years and years.

From Thomas Gardner
Posted on December 20, 2008 at 1:41 PM

I voted luxury.  Music enhances our quality of life and is something that sets us apart from other created things (though the number of people who buy those "sounds of nature" cd's might suggest we can even find "music" in the chatter fo squirrels and the mateing chirps of grasshoppers), but it really isn't a necessity.  I like to think it is a necessity in my life, in fact I even tell my wife that when she notices the amount of money I spend on iTunes, but neither of us really believes it....especially her.  We may turn to music for entertainment or as a way to give ourselves an emotional or spiritual boost, but that is a luxury and not a necessity.  We can be cheered without music.  We can pray without music.  We can even eat an elegant restaurant without music and still enjoy the food (though the sitar player at my favorite Indian restaurant is half the reason I go, I'll admit).  I wouldn't want to live a life without music, but I could do it if I had to.  Lets hope I never have to. 


From Chuck Naill Jr.
Posted on December 20, 2008 at 3:17 PM

This is interesting because of a discussion I was having last evening. Sound waves and resonance frequencies are everywhere. The fact that we want to make sounds, especially non dissonant sounds, is just us being a part of the universe. Therefore, I believe that making music is neither essential or non-essential but rather something that we cannot keep from doing in some form or another. 

I also believe that there is a muse within each person that needs to be expressed. I am a self taught musician and so my music comes from within and not the written notes.  In other words, what I play is in some part who I am. In this sense, I think that it is essential that what I produce musical communication as I would also produce written or verbal communication. 

From Siri Huntoon
Posted on December 20, 2008 at 3:33 PM

I know I'd lose my marbles without music (if they're not all lost already:-)  Whenever I'm stressed, I think of a favorite bit of music and it sort of blocks out the stressor until it goes away.  Some stressors are just mental junk and it is better to just get rid of it than think through it.  What better way than to have music in your head?  But most importantly it is beautiful ( in the case of good music) and fun.  I hope my kids take that in whether or not they continue to play their instruments.

What's a luxury is live music by brilliant performers.  I guess that's probably always been the case, and always will.

Posted on December 20, 2008 at 3:05 PM

I believe that music in  general  is important for most people in the world.  Also, I believe that there are some few people around who couldn't care less about music . . . . they don't feel it, don't enjoy it, and there are even those for whom music (as Napoleon Bonaparte once said) is "the least annoying of all noises".  That's about all regarding music in general . . .

Now, if we talk about classical music, I would say that most people couldn't care less about it. Most people don't have musical talent, musical ear or musical sensitivity.  They don't feel it, nor they understand it and much less can play a musical instrument.   If you don't believe this, just go to any big CD's and DVD's store and watch how many people are shopping in the classical department  . .  . not many people there !

I believe that the world of classical music is reserved for a relative minority of people, and that those who can appreciate it are most fortunate ! And for those of us that can enjoy a Debussy's "Claire de Lune" or a Chopin's "Raindrop" Prelude, or Bach's Saint Mathew Passion, music is not only a luxury, IT IS A VITAL NECESSITY  AS WELL ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! 



From Terez Mertes
Posted on December 20, 2008 at 5:54 PM

 Ouch - too much of an either-or to even choose one of those replies. Laurie, you should have included a third option. Except that most of us would have chosen it and you wouldn't have gotten a conclusive answer! I would have answered "necessity" six months ago, but in these troubled economic times, come on. I will die without food, water, I will cease to function correctly without sleep. I need heat and clothing to help me stay warm. I will not die without music.

It just might feel like it. : /

From Bob Annis
Posted on December 20, 2008 at 9:38 PM

Not necessary, but very helpful.

On the other hand, I'm able to lull my granddaughter to sleep with my singing. But no one could possibly say that my singing is musical. (Seriously).

So. Is more or less repetitious tuneless boring croaking necessary? I can't conceive of anyone considering it a luxury.


From Cathy Gray
Posted on December 20, 2008 at 11:59 PM

I think everyone needs music whether they know it or not. Some people may not be "musical" or think they need it, but we are all surrounded by it. People are influenced by its powers even if they don't realize it. And deaf people can feel it, too. Music is in the heavens and is what makes the planets rotate. Schools take music out first saying it is a frill but math and science are necessary. To be well-rounded music should be included as a part of school curriculum that is just as necessary as any other subject. Just my thoughts. Thanks for "listening".

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on December 21, 2008 at 3:05 PM

I have been forced to say Luxury. Why, because you can LIVE even if you don't play or listened to any music. It must be an horrible and sad life but you wouldn't die.  In the worst case, we would all become mentally ill but we would be alive. 

In some countries (extremist), music was forbidden!

But humans would miss something (that can make their lives so much better) if they did not know how to play/listen to music!


From Kylie Svenson
Posted on December 21, 2008 at 6:38 PM

"Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that gives value to survival." -- C. S. Lewis

Translation: Music, like literature, art, science, and sundry other pleasures, is absolutely a necessity. Without it, survival is valueless.

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