A Human Universal
Artists Play Key Roles In Affecting Consciousness - HEALING SOUND OF THE PEOPLE! (Ch. 1/pt. 3)
Many names and details are altered to protect those discussed and keep their identities and loved ones anonymous.
One expression I often hear but disagree with is "Music is a Universal Language." While I respect the sentiment, it does not consider cultural, generational, emotional, psychological, aesthetic, or other characteristics that impact meaning and what makes a piece of music significant. If music were a universal language, you could hypothetically use a time-machine to teleport a Japanese cisgender hetero male from 1739 CE to 1991 to attend Cannibal Corpse at the Central Park Ballroom in Milwaukee, WI, USA, and there would be no uncertainty that the man would relish the concert on a personal and intimate level. While there is a possibility that he might appreciate this music, it is reasonable to suspect that the chances are low. In a less abstract hypothetical scenario, consider a piece of music that you dislike or do not "understand," and ask yourself why that is, as well as who likes this music. Why does this piece that you have just thought or imagined bother you? Why do some people adore it? From this perspective, music is not a universal language in and of itself, but rather a human universal. Music, like language, is present in all human cultures and maintains noticeable cultural imprints, transgresses a myriad of social conventions within its culture of origin, and develops, changes, and adapts organically over time.
Two individuals that come to mind are people from two countries of different generations and housed in two separate jails. Neither of them knows of the existence of the other, and yet, the similarities of their experiences have stuck with me for some time.
"Hashim," a Sudanese immigrant, MMA champion, and devoted Sunni Muslim in his 60s with no criminal record before his current circumstances. He was devout in his practice of salah (prayer), practicing it five times per day, studying the Qur'an daily, and following all Islamic dietary requirements to the best of his ability within the jailhouse setting. His situation was incredibly complex as it was evident (to me) that there was much more nuance to what unfolded when he allegedly killed someone close to him, including suspected brain damage from years of fighting in the Octagon.
(Considering that most of my current readership is from occidental polities and not of Islamic faith, I'm fearful they will presume Hashim was involved in a religious killing. To be clear, this is not the case with Hashim, and I hope that people do not project their potentially dangerous preconceived notions of Islam's complex theology into a scenario that was not motivated by his religious faith. I would not have to argue this point for those of another faith allegedly implicated in the killing of a close friend; however, in the current state of the world, there exists a disproportionate amount of Islamophobia. Even though I am keeping many of the details of his case altered for privacy, this gentleman's faith and country of origin are essential to his character and cannot be left out. So I must be direct that his religion and culture are not motivating factors in his alleged offense. To learn more about Islam, check out the "Let's Talk Religion" YouTube Channel and the writing of legendary composer, instrumentalist, and scholar Yusef Latif)
The other occupants ranged in age from 25 to 35, were not especially religious (at least not in practice), had ties to American organized crime networks, had multiple offenses on their records spanning years, and earned their livelihood through illicit activities. While there was no hostility towards him, Hashim seldom felt like he "fit in" with the other residents in the house due to generational differences, different places of origin, and different cultural values. Hashim was always polite but never participated when I visited this dormitory to facilitate a group. I would invariably state, " we're about to do a music group. Do you want to join us?" He would respond with, "Thank you for asking, but no thank you. I don't really like music."
(The remainder of the essay is only available to paid subscribers.)
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to Dorian’s Mode to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.