Vsauce! …and the concept of ‘functional’ music
If you don’t yet know about Vsauce, allow me to share the YouTube channel’s brilliant, one-sentence description: “Our World is Amazing.”
Having watched just about every episode, I honestly could not think of a more apt description for a channel that so passionately explores the funny quirks and profound mysteries of the world and then lovingly ties them to the experience of daily life.
While it goes without saying that I think watching Michael Stevens and company talk about the world is well-worth the time, I wanted to highlight a just a small snippet of a recent video because of the interesting perspective it offers on pop music, especially as it relates to other forms of contemporary art and entertainment.
(The bit on specifically on pop music starts at 14:44, but starting a bit earlier will give the appropriate context.)
While I’ve never thought about pop music in such terms, I think the medicine analogy is absolutely perfect. It simultaneously sums up the value of pop music (I might even specify further and say commercial pop, i.e. Bieber, Cyrus, etc.), while separating it from more purely-artistic music, which I’ll define here roughly as music created because of a deep-seated internal need by artists invested throughout the entire creative life cycle of a work. (I should say that though I think the above definition is true, I do realize that the need to pay bills and make a living, among countless other considerations, complicates this matter tremendously.)
I should say that I absolutely believe that both have value. Frankly, I can’t imagine life without either. But despite this, I can’t help but question — and hope that others do too — the value of the value. What are we really getting with each? Why is it worthwhile? For how long?
I think it’s appropriate to end with a quote Ralph Waldo Emerson quoted by Vsauce (sorry, can’t remember which video!). It’s about books, but applies equally well to just about all experiences in life: “I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.”
What music would you like to make you?