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The Carletonian

Hitting A Wall: Does Music Divide?

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The first time I picked up a copy of No Fidelity last year on a late Friday afternoon, I recall flipping through the pages, sitting alone and reading something I did not expect: a music scene I never ventured in before. The depth of criticisms, reviews, and experiences in our new music publication was rich, and you could clearly read passion between the lines for the arts that speaks to the reader. And yet I probably would not be the first to say that in spite of this, I could not find on the surface as much in common when it came to certain ideals and types of “music” that I was reading about. And who can blame us?

Artistic cultures have always been fragmentalized if you look closely enough, but today, you don’t need a mental microscope to see it around you. Our Netflix queues are different. Even though we’ll have common shows to watch (you know it’s the case when it seems everyone talks about Scandal around you), we diverge more than we converge when it comes to our tastes. Same goes for the Spotify playlists and our Kindle libraries. These fragments, thousands of shards a person wide, seemed intimidating when I began life here a year ago. Everyone had different music on, wherever you went. Strangely enough,on a campus where almost everyone expressed their ways, shared or not, forces of conformity are at work in small ways. Shared music more often than not assures shared social spheres. And yet we are still fragmented.

I fell into my own music fragment. Like others’, it’s a fluid one, but even fluidity has patterns of inclination. Some go to a few events at the Concert Hall, others to the Cave, and there’s overlap in between. You could find yourself in attendance patterns with different backstories behind them, ranging from musical exploration to contin- ued cultivation of your old tastes. The latter was my case: the Concert Hall mostly did what I liked, being a violinist and an aficionado for Western classical. Crowds are different in terms of numbers – a Bartok quartet cycle on a Saturday would not be as busy as the Cave on the same evening. One need only look at the space and the numbers around them to know the difference.

Western classical music isn’t as highly regarded at this point for most of us our age. The repertoire isn’t innovating itself as fast as most other genres and tastes are, and the instruments are more traditional than contemporary ones are. When it comes to our many music scenes, there can be a divide: a perception of inacces- sibility that works in every direction. It all depends on what makes you tick, and what came to cause that tick long ago. Inaccessibility, when it comes to music, arises as a relative perception when one preconceived notion of “music” meets another: an outsider peering into another world and not knowing what to do. So it can seem to someone who might lis- ten to a Haydn symphony and not feel anything for it, even with some context for the genre. (Although I’d understand. Haydn’s not a thing for me either.)

I am glad for No Fidelity’s ability to spread different musical ex- periences. Some music scenes are a whole other world, and whatever contact I’ve made outside of my own, I appreciate it. All music will always have meaning to live inside of. The knee-jerk reaction at that moment with the magazine, though, was, “This isn’t me.” I’d like to think there must be others who thought this way, given how many fragments of music culture we have. Well of course it wasn’t “me!” It shouldn’t be, and the point of publications like this is always to take you outside of your world. This is the case when listening to new music: living in a different world and liking it, and yet feeling like I should be in my own world. Many of us do.

The world of other people’s music could be, for lack of a clearer picture, like a wall, a behemoth projection of the cultures surrounding you. The size is scary, with everything being very different. It’s funny how that wall shrinks as we grow into different music in our lifetimes: gaining new ground, appreciating new and different forms. Growing up tends to work that way. Even so, the wall is still there – we will return to what we enjoy most because it is what speaks to us most. Given the choice between, say, this week’s new hit single on the indie charts, to Rostropovich performing Saint-Saens on the cello, I’d opt for Rostropovich nine times out of ten. It’s got the kick for me. You’d do the same with your fa- vorites sometimes – you’d want your kick too. In the end, we’ll choose to live somewhere between on that wall, because we’ll want to enjoy our classics, but still grasp for something different. Importantly, it’s all going to be on our own terms, as I know I’ll be doing soon when I don’t have to think about the end of term and perhaps, at last, find out more about the Arctic Monkeys beyond their cover of “Brazil.”

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