Music can change the world because it can change people. -Bono
People say that music can change the world. Remember all of those “[insert your cause here]-AID” concerts of the 1980s and 90s? Farm-Aid, for example, still raises significant funds ($38 million spent since 1985!) by holding annual concerts featuring greats like Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, and Dave Matthews. These stars are also, by the way, at the inner sanctum of the public conversation about reforms needed for our food system. In case you were wondering, this year’s concert is not far from us in the Mid-Atlantic –September 22, 2012 in Hersheypark. The funds raised are granted out to support sustainable agriculture by training new farmers and building the market for locally grown foods.
Music can do lots more than raise money –it can inspire, bring people together, and influence culture. It may even be a core catalyst of human evolution, at least according to rocker turned McGill University neuroscientist, Dr. Dan Levitin, who argues in his book, The World in Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature (2008), that music is a primal force that humans use to bind together around friendship, joy, comfort, knowledge, religion and love –and ultimately, to evolve as a society.
Not sure that anyone can really explain the mystery of music, why it moves us so deeply or exactly how it brings about change or evolution for that matter. I imagine that every listen to MC Yogi‘s house beats mixed up with turntable scratching and the Bhagavad Gita must certainly be improving the global karmic balance. Or each time Billy Bragg blesses the audience with his unplugged humor and undimmed faith in activists, as he did recently at Easton’s Avalon Theatre, a few good but tired souls must be lifted up enough to keep trying to make the world a better place. Whether the impact is intentional, visceral, or downright ethereal, I say rock on.