The value of music and why you should listen to it

Musical training, both as an audience and as a participant, fosters the growth of creative abstraction and the release of pent-up feelings.

The value of music and why you should listen to it
Several reasons why listening to music is important. Photo by Kelly Sikkema / Unsplash

According to the ranking of the countries where the population spent more time listening to music -through a paid streaming subscription in 2021-, prepared by the statistics portal Statista, Mexico ranks first, followed by Sweden, Brazil, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

Meanwhile, from April to June 2021 Spotify, with approximately 162.4 million subscribers, positioned itself as the leading platform in terms of streaming music services. Apple Music ranked second, and Amazon Music and Tencent tied for third place.

Based on Spotify Wrapped 2021, which made a count of the most listened to on that platform over the past year, reggaeton dominated as the most requested in our country. The most listened to singers were Bad Bunny, J Balvin, Rauw Alejandro, Christian Nodal, and Luis Miguel; in the case of women: Karol G, Dua Lipa, Shakira, Danna Paola, and Ariana Grande.

On the occasion of World Musician's Day, Víctor Hugo Peñaloza Hernández, professor at the Faculty of Music (FaM) of the UNAM, says: music is an art and a way of communicating with our peers; it also gives us identity, that is to say, it allows us to recognize ourselves as a society. This artistic expression improves life, or at least that is what those of us who dedicate ourselves to it intends.

Listening to music and performing it has benefits such as the development of abstract thinking and the expression of emotions: sadness, anger, or love. It also enriches and favors the brain in cognitive matters.

Mexico is a country with great cultural and musical richness; however, we live on a stage where we do not easily appreciate it. "We are immersed in the media, where we find many cultural manifestations, some rich and others very poor, but they are part of our time and of what we are living".

Mexican musical culture has numerous manifestations

In Oaxaca or Puebla, we hear melodies that are different from what we can appreciate in Tabasco, Quintana Roo, or the north of the territory, which have been adapted and transformed since colonial times, along with the instruments. The Sinaloan band, the mariachi, the son jarocho or huasteco, the huapango or the pirekuas, are just a sample.

It is worth remembering that November 22 is celebrated as World Musicians' Day, established by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in honor of Saint Cecilia, whom Pope Gregory XIII declared Patron Saint of Musicians in 1584.

In Europe, by way of celebration, on November 22, 1570, a tournament of composers of the time was held in Évreux, Normandy. From 1695 in Edinburgh, music began to be celebrated with a certain regularity; this was followed by other countries such as France, Spain, and Germany. Later, in Latin America, the tradition of this day continued between 1919 and 1920, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, until it spread to the rest of America, according to the Ministry of Culture on its website.

Mexican musical geniuses such as Consuelo Velázquez, Mario Lavista, Gabriela Ortiz, Arturo Márquez, Carlos Chávez, Silvestre Revueltas, José Pablo Moncayo, Manuel M. Ponce, and José Alfredo Jiménez, among others, have taken their art beyond Mexico's borders.

There is music for everyone

Although there are different tastes, there are certain elements that define musical quality: timbre richness, musical motif, the development of the theme or variations; as well as the content if there are lyrics (explicit message of the text). With them, it is possible to make a more objective evaluation than just saying: "I like it or not", says the academic.

There is music of little value, because it has little development of motifs and ideas in its construction, with a minimal combination of sounds and creativity. Nevertheless, it can become commercial. Fortunately, quality music prevails, music that lasts regardless of the passing of time: orchestral, boleros, and marimba, among other genres that occupy a place in people's preference.

In Mexico, more music education is needed in schools, "beyond pretending that we have a large number of professional or academic musicians," since it is usually only taught in basic workshops, especially in high school. One would like the country and our youth to have better educational conditions in general, reading comprehension, more competence in mathematical skills, and, of course, musical education.

Teachers have a fundamental role to play. "I teach in a public high school and I try to offer an alternative to what young people hear in their environment; that is an important element of my work." Another completely different environment is the one experienced in the propaedeutic and undergraduate courses. The students and future musicians have excellent reading, solid solfege training, and so on.

Referring to how someone decides to dedicate his life to this art, he recalls that in his case he started playing the guitar when he was 12 or 13 years old, in the church choir.

"I always loved playing, in the sense of experimenting, of living the sensation of producing sounds; it's something that as a music student is wonderful. I remember those first moments of moving my fingers and little by little discovering that the instrument is coming to life; it is very exciting, very rich and a process that is indispensable for the education of the ear."

I studied at the South campus of the College of Sciences and Humanities of the UNAM, where I approached the professor of Taller Musical; there I found that it was possible to study music and make a living from it, and it was wonderful. "I never moved from there".

Later he arrived at the then-National School of Music, now the Faculty. "Little by little my tastes have changed, not only in classical music but also in popular music: from experiencing ska, now I listen to danzón and chachachá. We will also see how young people are transforming their musical taste".

Before deciding to become a musician, he says, he wanted to be an architect because he had an uncle dedicated to that profession; it was what I knew, but when he discovered that he could dedicate himself to music there was no turning back and he enjoys it very much.

I am the first one with that profession in the family, and that environment meant unconditional support for this life decision; such accompaniment has been decisive.

During the critical stage of the health emergency, musicians had difficult days. Peñaloza Hernández highlights the cases of colleagues who live from presentations with the public, restaurants, and bars, and they are the ones who have had a hard time. "Today, little by little, we are returning to a life close to what it was before the pandemic".

Mexico -he specifies- is a country that consumes music in abundance; however, it is not always well remunerated. "The musician is tenacious, enjoys his work, and looks for a way to sell it; nevertheless, there are those who have not had an easy situation".

On this World Musician's Day, "I celebrate my colleagues, and I tell young people and children who want to dedicate themselves to music to enjoy it regardless of the genre, to have fun and experiment, to make it pleasant, and that apart from the seriousness and solemnity of a concert hall, there are the notes that make us jump and dance. And to those who will not be professionals, I invite them to enjoy it, to laugh and also to cry with that mixture of sounds and silences that encloses emotions and evocations", he asserts.