The Norman Transcript

September 13, 2013

Music offers insight, call to action

by Hannah Cruz
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — The Beatles blared out over my car’s speakers the other day and I was instantly transported to a childhood memory: My dad driving our 12-seater blue van, packed full of my cousins, as we made our way to the beach shouting “We all live in a yellow submarine!”

It only took me a moment to start singing along as I did so many years ago. Not only had I not forgotten the lyrics, but the melody brought back a flood of details and feelings from a moment in time.

It’s an experience many have felt. A few notes strung together can capture an emotion, moment or story unlike any other medium.

For centuries in cultures across the world people have used music as a tool to record and share history, preach religious belief and act as a rallying cry. There is something about music — listening to it and performing it — that instantly communicates an idea to both the individual and the masses.

It’s one of the reasons music has repeatedly played a pivotal role in societies small and large — think black slaves in the U.S. singing spirituals to veil communication or the jazz era spurring more liberal social change.

Music has — and likely always will be — used as a form of communication that is often more powerful than words itself. As Hans Christian Andersen pointed out so many years ago, “Where words fail, music speaks.”

From sacred music to rock ‘n’ roll, music often serves as a platform to elicit social and political action. Between race relations, gender equality, globalization and social views on sex and drugs, music acts as a social mirror, highlighting the good, the bad and the ugly of the human condition.

In short, music helps us feel more connected to ourselves. It helps us revel in the joy of a moment, feel anguish, be moved to action or learn another’s story.

This idea was a part of the inspiration behind the Norman Philharmonic hiring American composer Libby Larsen in 2012 to create a symphony and anthem for the City of Norman. Larsen drew inspiration for the symphony from the city’s flag — with symbols like a gear, pencil and feather — to express concepts like innovation, education and culture.

Now in its third season, the Phil teaches the anthem to Norman youth. With lyrics like “When I see a prairie schooner heading homeward to the west,/ Toward the land of stars and sunshine,/ Toward the place that I love best;/ Then my heart goes home to Norman on the prairies of the West,/ oh my heart goes home to Norman, to the place that I love best,” youth are learning about their city’s heritage through music.

What better way to teach and inspire youth than through music? The Phil is continuing to inspire others with music with their upcoming performance. Read our story on 10 for more information.

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Have any suggestions for us? Comments? Praises? Give me a shout out at hcruz@normantranscript.com. I’d love to hear from you.