In the world, Mexicans are the ones who listen to music the most, 25.6 hours a week; a figure higher than the global average, 18. Mexico is a country with an enormous musical richness; a "historical laboratory" of influences. Pop/contemporary, rock/alternative/indie, and urban are favorite genres. During the pandemic, music offers hope and joy to the people. During 2020, the concert industry recorded, on a global scale, losses of $30 billion. November 22 is celebrated as International Musicians' Day.

A mixture of sounds and silences, music is one of the fine arts, it encloses emotions and, especially, evocations. That is why it is said that "sometimes we call music what is listening to memories"; it sensitizes and produces different states of mind. It is considered one of the factors that cause greater pleasure because listening to it favors the production of the neurotransmitter called dopamine, which is also generated with food or sex. Mexico is the country that consumes it the most. According to a study by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), Mexicans listen, on average, 25.6 hours a week, a figure above the world average of 18 hours.

During the pandemic, it helps to get through difficult times. "We confined ourselves to our homes with a certain amount of fear and insecurity, not knowing what was going to happen, or how terrible this disease was, with news of deaths and how infections were on the rise. In that 'emotional drift', amid uncertainty, the arts played an important role in bringing hope and joy to the people", considers José Miguel Ordóñez Gómez, the academic from the Faculty of Music (FaM). A piece or song that we like is an emotional refuge. Somehow it contributes to making people reduce their stress, as it is a deeply emotional experience that leads to improved life in these times of pandemic.

Celebrating the International Day of the Musician, which is celebrated on November 22, date in which Saint Cecilia, patron saint of those who dedicate themselves to this activity, is commemorated, the classical guitarist adds that this art has the capacity to represent collectivities and to manifest forms of seeing the world. In this sense, its social function is important as it generates identities and allows individuals to identify with certain collectives, attitudes, values, and ideals.

It is an artistic practice that is rich and complex, where there are different ways of performing it, as well as musical genres: classical, popular, traditional, using new technologies or experimental, as well as an infinite number of "practitioners", such as the composer, performer, producer or DJ, and also those who research and teach it. It is difficult to know exactly how many musical genres exist because music is alive and dynamic; styles mix, influence each other, and new ones emerge. In traditions such as jazz, rock, or electronic dance music, to mention a few, there are numerous styles and constant fusions.

Along with the creation of new genres, the existing ones are transformed and adapted to current realities, as is the case with corrido, bolero, or son jarocho, which now has an important influence in the United States and brings together Mexican and Latin communities, for example. Moreover, recording technology and, above all, digitalization and the Internet allow people to access music from other cultures and places. There is a dynamic exchange of the productions of collectives and social groups. Technology is another element that helps innovation.

Which is the best?

José Miguel Ordóñez explains that there is interest in studying musical tastes or preferences. It is known that they are related to the social and cultural environment of individuals, as well as to variables such as age, gender, etc. However, based on the sociology of consumption, it is clear that tastes are increasingly varied and it is difficult to show an absolute correlation between the socioeconomic and cultural level and musical taste. The idea that certain social strata or people with a certain level of education would correspond to a certain type of music may not be entirely correct. "Maybe listening to Mozart is not the same as listening to Cumbia Sonidera, but that is not something marked by the barriers of 'good' or 'bad' taste".

The blues was considered "vulgar", the tango and bolero of the slums, popular or of marginalized sectors; even jazz. In a historical context, genres are transformed and some acquire greater transcendence and prestige. Everyone listens to what they like, what is close to their experiences, aspirations, and ways of seeing the world, that is what gives it meaning, which has value in an environment and according to this, it is understood why certain genres are important for some.

According to the Global Consumer Survey of the statistics portal Statista, based on eight music genres, Mexicans' favorites are pop/contemporary (54 percent); rock/alternative/indie (53 percent), and urban music (42 percent). Mexicans listen to their favorite chords, especially on the way to work (52 percent) and while exercising (45 percent). Furthermore, approximately 60 percent use a streaming service or social network, such as YouTube.

In this sense, Ordóñez Gómez considers that it cannot be divided into "better" or "worse" into absolute terms, nor can a clear-cut value judgment be made. Mexico is a country with an enormous musical richness; a "historical laboratory" of influences. When the Spaniards and slaves arrived from Africa, they brought it as well as instruments that merged with the indigenous heritage. However, in the guitarist's opinion, a more vigorous interaction between academia and popular music is needed, as in other countries, such as Cuba. In addition, musical education should be promoted from an early age, to detect talents.

For the specialist, artistic and philosophical education have been left aside due to pragmatic interests, when at their core should be the individual who contributes to society and is aware that we are part of the same social conglomerate. The lack of subjects such as these is regrettable because they are fields of knowledge that have a direct impact on emotional and intellectual education. "There is no greater cognitive complexity than creating; if a boy has access to the aesthetic experience of taking any instrument and playing, he will have access to beauty," says Miguel Ordóñez.

Difficult times

Apart from being an art, music is a way of life for those who dedicate themselves to it, and a business with a powerful global market worth millions of dollars, explains the academic. The entertainment industry contributes approximately four percent of the country's Gross Domestic Product; it is made up of three main areas: recording, copyrights, and live music. The disappearance of physical formats, such as compact discs, and the entry of new players such as streaming, are causing a crisis in the first area.

Before the pandemic, the "strong" sector was live music; it was on the rise and musicians made a living from it, from playing. But from one day to the next everything stopped, he stresses. According to the annual report of Pollstar, an entertainment industry publication, on a global scale, the concert industry recorded losses of 30 billion dollars during 2020, of which 9.1 billion dollars corresponded to unsold tickets. A significant number of musicians had to look for other means of subsistence; today, this activity is one of the last to be reactivated. "Online concerts will never replace live concerts," concludes the professor.