Good morning. Today I am going to talk to you about music, and its role in our lives. Today is the 3rd of February, and exactly fifty-one years ago, an event took place that changed the music world. On 3rd February 1959, a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa, killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, The Big Bopper and pilot Roger Peterson. The incident became known as “The Day the Music Died”.
Some of you may have heard of these big name musicians, but it's quite unlikely that all of you will know all of their music. It's more likely that you will know a completely different repertoire of music depending on your personal taste. So I can safely conclude that “Music” didn't actually “Die” fifty one years ago today. But what if it had died?
“You don't need any brains to listen to music,” said the famous tenor, Luciano Pavarotti, but what if there was no music to listen to? What would you do with your life? Ever since our cavemen ancestors discovered that they could warble together around an open fire, music has been woven through our lives. Around 30,000 years ago, our ancestors made some of the first instruments we know about, using mammoth skulls and shoulder bones as drums, and hollowing out smaller bones to make flutes.
Music really is the foundation of our lives. Before we could walk, talk, or even see</i>, we could probably hear music coming from outside our mothers' womb. Then, when we were young, some of our first experiences were musical:- learning nursery rhymes, singing the alphabet, or even knowing the “Teletubbies” theme tune. The nursery rhymes taught us our first stories, like “Jack and Jill”, or counting like, “1 2 3 4 5 Once I caught a fish alive”, and learning these was a pivotal stage in our development. We explored and learnt through music, whether it was by shaking a rattle, banging our spoon angrily against a highchair or attempting to make our own guitar out of an old margarine tub and some elastic bands.
As Longfellow said, “Music is the universal language of mankind”. Music spans the language barrier and very different people can enjoy the same music. Many famous classical composers like Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Haydn, Chopin and Debussy came from different countries, but we can still appreciate their music as much as a German, French, American, Asian or Russian person can. Also, as I discovered when in Germany, there aren't many female German teenagers who can't sing along to the entire “High School Musical” franchise, even if it is in a different language.
Music is universally popular for this reason – it is accessible to everyone's experience. For example, the world famous percussionist Evelyn Glennie is profoundly deaf and learnt to sense music through her feet. And so music can be an opportunity for people to prove their talents. I'm not talking about the “X-factor” kind of talent in particular – although in my opinion Joe, Alexandra and Leona are all vocally talented – I'm talking about seriously talented. Such as jazz player Louis Armstrong, who could get such a high number of top notes out of his trumpet in a row that it left critics astounded. Or Niccolò Paganini, one of classical music's greatest showmen, who is said to have been the fastest violinist EVER. Officials once measured him doing twelve notes per second! Without music, how many people would have been deprived of their place in the hall of fame?
And who can forget the talent of the opera singers? Opera may not be your favourite type of music – as Ed Gardner, a radio personality says - “Opera's when a guy gets stabbed in the back and instead of bleeding, he sings” - but how would you know if you loved or hated opera if it had never been invented?
Music has many uses – in most religions, some form of music is integrated in worship, or used to show respect or remembrance. And think of how boring cinema and theatre would be with no music to lend any kind of atmosphere whatsoever! It can be used to explain the law and business ideas, such as how the French revolution is portrayed in the musical “Les Misérables”, or how Gillbert and Sullivan's operetta, “Utopia Limited” makes a mockery of the newly legislated Companies act by showing that “Utopia” could solve its problems by becoming a Limited company. Music can be used to keep up morale – such as when bands play when armies are marching off to war, or on your Duke of Edinburgh expedition. Singers visit troops – think Dame Vera Lynn in the Second World War.
“Truly there would be reason to go mad if it were not for music,” said composer Tchaikovsky. Music is used to treat trauma; in therapy; or “stress music” helps relieve pain during dental procedures. Operations are now being carried out under local anaesthetic where general would be the norm, if the patient is listening to a proficient harpist.
“Music has charms to soothe a savage breast”, the saying from William Congreve goes. We all know this from our excessive use of music – from Sony Walkman to Apple iPod touch, we've had it all and how could we ever revise without it? I know there was uproar enough when we were refused iPods to listen to in our Art Mock Examination... but imagine not having the opportunity at all. What if music was suddenly removed from us by a new government, like the Taliban did in Afghanistan: what would we do then? One of our senses would feel very neglected.
if music died, we would develop more slowly intellectually
wars would be lost due to low morale
musicians would miss out on the opportunity to become great
and we'd lose one of our lovely GCSE subjects from the curriculum.
So think, for a minute, about what we owe to music and what we'd do without it. As Shakespeare said, “If music be the food of love,