#001 What is the purpose Music?


The most common question I ask my students is “what is the purpose of…?”, I enjoy asking this because you can see their faces scrunch with thought as they contemplate firstly the meaning of what I have asked, and secondly the answer that they want to offer.

These questions that have followed me for the past sixteen years

  1. With the current situation in the musical world, what is the purpose of music?
  2. Where has all the good music gone?

Victor Wooten, bass playing master of groove, has explained that “mu is an ancient word for ‘mother’ and sic is just an abbreviation for the word ‘science’. Put together, music means ‘the mother of all sciences'” (Wooten: 2006: 13). That is an incredible statement, music does contain elements of physics, chemistry but the only claim that I can lay towards music being biological is that the first thing that we ever do in our personal existence is play a beat! Of course, I am not talking about playing a drum or even a stomp/clap rhythm, but within the earliest stage of pregnancy two cells join together an begin to beat in unison, these cells eventually are joined by others and form your heart. With that logic, one could argue that music is the very first task we undertake (even unknowingly) so it must therefore be at least slightly biological.

Physics could be defined as the study of movement, chemistry the study of matter and biology the study of the living, if music is the ‘Mother of all Sciences’ could we consider music to be the study of the human condition. I do realise that is particularly farfetched, but lets stop and consider all of the moments when we are sad, happy, confused, or even just indifferent there is always an aural companion to assist you with your emotional state…music! when you go the cinema and you spend ninety minutes waiting for the troublesome couple to kiss and make up, music takes that moment that little bit further. In fact without music, film is quite an awkward experience (here is an example)

This concept of music being ‘the mother of all sciences’ leads me onto my next point.

Have you found yourself in a conversation where your conversational partner and yourself are musing about the music of your youth being better than music of today? I have had this conversation too many times to count, on every parents evening that I attend there is always at least one parent who poses this, or a similar question to me. To my shame, I have offered this question others in hope of them clarifying the situation. It is only now that I am older and have witnessed new generations of music evolve that I see the clarity within the answer. I grew up listening to my the music of my father who was, and still is, securely a product of the 1960s with his listening taste securely within the 1970s, he grew up in the generation to be known as generation x, a collection of teens who sought to rebel and disobey the wishes their parents, hello punk music. I grew up with music such as the Stranglers, Madness and Smashing Pumpkins blaring from the car radio on the journey to and from school. At the age of ten, my father unleashed me within a world of Metallica, AC/DC and Pink Floyd, and I have never looked back. Are there bands within the charts that are as good as the six previously mentioned bands, maybe, I am yet to hear the charts reflect anything like the previous bands. However, that is not to say that there aren’t bands out there! you need to look between the cracks and suddenly you will see an unlimited amount of great bands making music in the modern industry, ok they may not be charting, but nevertheless they are still there.

Modern comparison bands

Stranglers = DIIV

Madness = Fat Freddy’s Drop

Smashing Pumpkins = White Denim

Metallica = Villainy

AC/DC = Wolfmother

Pink Floyd = Phoenix Foundation

The thing that is most often forgotten with music is that it is not about the fame, it is not about the glory, the money or the kudos. Music is about the human condition, connecting with one another whether that be offering a piece of yourself (through music) for others to listen or relate to, sharing a moment with someone by listening to a piece of music or briefly escaping to another place by using music mixed with imagination. Music is here to be enjoyed by all, anyone at any given moment can perform or compose music (even without know how to play). Music flows through us, is curated by us and will live longer than us.

Music is the Mother of all Sciences


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