The Missouri Miner

Missouri S&T's Student Newspaper
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EST. 1915

Music, a political and cultural experience

Leslie Hamilton


Growing up my parents instilled value and appreciation of the fine arts. While my mother’s appreciation might be limited to Josh Groban, Celtic Woman, and R&B (crossover - depending on perspective and opinion) bands of the likes of 98 Degrees and Destiny’s Child, I owe my father’s appreciation of all fine arts. My mother grew up playing piano, quite talented to say the least, but ultimately pursued a career in business - working for a non-profit as an event planner and running at least 3 owner-operated businesses in her lifetime. My father was one of those rare individuals gifted with a photographic memory and an ability to replay an entire song by memory with some level of familiarity with the instrument, achieving scholarships on instruments he had rarely touched and having a passion for art history that ultimately lead him to become the art dealer that he is now. My father vastly contrasts my mother’s musical and artistic preferences, but I feel as though his the well-rounded appreciation for all forms of creative art inspired my current appreciation for music. My father has instilled within me the capacity to appreciate art and culture outside of my own. He has always lectured that there is a nuanced interpretation and valuation, but it your duty to see beyond it, look to the fundamental importance and potential. Essentially this is how he sells paintings, but as far as my own experience, this is how I came to appreciate music at the most fundamental level.


Prior to what we know today as music, wherein your musical experience is heavily reliant on your cultural experience and exposure - in short, what you could relate to or “found relatable” - music was heavily reliant on a cultural experience beyond what you saw, heard, and what you knew. In that sense, how can you appreciate lyricism and musicality that goes beyond your own cultural experience? In the times of classical musical, classical not opera, musical experience was based upon the audible experience sans words - how you interpreted the movements and various nuances in tonation and tempo. Your emotions controlled by the sensory experience, the vibrations you felt and what that story told based on how you feel. One of the most stimulating and intense experiences, are those in which you are so overwhelmed by the energy and sensory responses that you are brought to the point of tears and a breakdown. Lyrics then came to add into this sensory experience, but when the mind is given the opportunity to use your imagination to its limitations, without guidance beyond a general feeling, that is when you experience music at its most pure moment, where it is curated to your personal experience.


Similarly, that is the beauty in music - that lyrics in combination to strategic rhythm can shape and reflect upon your cultural experience, but also give you an experience that is so fundamentally different than the one you grew up in. That is how I felt about Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and Prince. My father, like me, was a huge Prince fan, but one day he introduced me to Bone Thugs-N-Harmony - to which I was equally obsessed. The extent of my musical experience, might have been limited to age and societal limitations at the time, but that did not prevent me from finding appreciation in a form of art and cultural experience that was drastically differently from my white, upper-middle class, suburban experience. I cannot even begin to express the long-term impact of having exposure to different genres of music had in my life. It created a desire to better understand other cultures, hardships, historical events, to be better educated and encourage progress. I feel as though a person’s musical experience - a strong indicator of their cultural experience and exposure - can shape a connection - a tolerance if you will - to a political and societal acceptance of something beyond the norm whether that might be related to ethnic or sexual identity.

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