Me, Music, and I

Humans are complex, highly cognitive, cultural beings. There are many aspects that could influence and define a person’s identity. However, one’s identity is created primarily from their worldview. Perspective greatly shapes how someone relates things to themself and uses them to define themself. A worldview hinges on a few critical factors. The most critical determinant in forming a person’s worldview is their language. A culture’s language will begin to shape the perspective of a person from infanthood on. The next most important component that defines worldview is a person’s experiences. As one proceeds through their life, experiences will constantly meet them and alter how they perceive the world. Along with experience, we have music. Music can be a powerful experience that influences someone’s worldview, and thus their identity, by both consumption and creation.

Music’s influence on identity is not only significant, but has the potential to be very affective. Identity through music will have its own unique impact relative to culture. Every society has its own distinct types of music with further subsections therein. A person will be immersed in their culture and music since they are in the womb on into their waking and dreaming life. This will naturally create an impact on their worldview – parallel to how language does. This culturally-based music environment will influence their identity in a compounding and variety of ways. Musical associations one applies to themself will index their cultural and regional origin, forming an identity tied to a culture and place. People of like musical tastes will share in their desired type of music. Friends, family, and other surrounding people will influence one’s identity. If music brings people together and allows them to bond or understand one another, then it helps in shaping identity. Further, identity can be molded by the musical expression shared or explained by others, and the musical expression perceived by a listener from the artists.

With respect to musical expression, hearing the music of a foreign culture can offer insight and transformation of one’s identity. One’s culture may have certain parameters of expression that are likely to be used. In listening to an exocultural piece of music, one can gain new sensations, ideas, or feelings that would not likely be heard from music from their society alone. Cognizing musical expression and ideas tied to music from another culture will offer a piece of a foreign worldview. It is an insight into another culture – although etic in nature – that can have an influence on the essence of identity.

Identity can certainly shape one’s ideas and preferences of music. A person can have an identity separate from music. Identity without music would be based primarily on one’s culturally defined worldview and experiences in their culture, and other cultures. This identity would not be lacking or less interesting, it would just be different. It would just be without the influence of music. Yet, music only exists through identity. Identity creates music. Humans have identity, and this identity is one of the many tools utilized in the production of music. Music is able to influence identity because its properties are intrinsic to the identity and idiosyncratic behaviors of the musical producer. Identity shapes music in that it determines how and when the music is created and why and by what means it is created. The physically, socially, and culturally based perspectives that define an artist or performer’s identity will define the constraints and possibilities of the music they produce.

Music and identity are clearly related in a profound marriage. For many, they can be so interrelated that a person and their music are what make them who they are, or without their music they would not be the same. It seems safe to say that music can form identity, just as identity forms music. Importantly, the identity that forms music does not clone itself from the effect of that music; meaning music goes on to influence people in ways unique to how they interpret and embrace that music, regardless of it’s origin’s personal identity. From one’s identity to another’s, music sings true to the self.

11 Comments

  1. I hadn’t thought of music that way before – food, yes, but not music. It is true that music can contribute to the development of one’s identity, though we may not notice it. Didn’t jazz develop to express the unique culture and identity of black America? I grew up with country and Christian music, and feel that those beginnings have influenced what I consider the good life, how I define America, and what I believe, even as my tastes have changed to favor alternative rock. (If you met me in real life, that might surprise me, as I am a rather quiet and straightlaced young woman.)

    Another enlightening post, Professor Tom!

    Liked by 1 person

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