What Does Music Mean to You?

Covid is crystallizing just how deep it runs

We're looking down the wrong end of another lockdown, and I already feel the anxiety bubbling in my stomach.

Last time was bizarre, but we had the novelty factor and once our survival mechanism kicked in, we adapted and flexed to navigate the "new world" and find our "new norm."

To bring some joy to our days in quarantine, we at The Elements Music set up Isolation Radio Station, sharing playlists from our friends in the industry. We never expected the response to be so overwhelming for something as simple as sharing music, but it captured a zeitgeist and offered people a space to express themselves.

For many, putting together those playlists was very emotional, even transformative, which got me thinking deeply about what music really means to us.

My need for connection extended to Zoom interviews with friends, asking what music meant to them. Each lit up, excited to tell me in their most genuine, heartfelt tone of voice.

"Music can look like so many things. It can look like notes, it can look like a city. It can look like a voice or a band, or a moment in time, but to ME it looks like a religion that I put all of my faith in. I feel like it gives me a brush with the divinely unexplainable." —Andrea Minze @UMPG

I was actually asking for them to share a piece of themselves, their vulnerability, faith, joy, pain, values, private and sacred memories.

"I love that no matter how I feel, there's something to fit my mood. If I'm depressed as fuck, I'll just go listen to Elliott Smith under my comforter and not talk to anyone." —Catie Ginsburg @partisanrecords

As I scanned the Isolation site, many playlists had a handful of artists in common: Fela Kuti, A Tribe Called Quest, Kendrick Lamar, Nina Simone, Fiona Apple, to name a few who showed up for many. 

I could see a pattern around the more obvious voices of protest, the need for the grassroots point of view, tradition and culture in a time of political and social unrest, when we're stuck at home living our lives through the confines of a lens. 

I heard voices I grew up with, feelings of nostalgia from a different time and a ton of music evoking the daily mood swings we were all experiencing with our strange new reality.

In my chat with director Charlie Inman, we'd talked about the tradition of songs. Isolation Radio Station has this universal consciousness and shows how we're naturally gravitating to "Songs that hold us together" in our need for comfort and community.

Even though the power of music is undeniable, this personal rediscovery has been important to me and is giving me something to hold onto going back into lockdown.

I love that something as simple as making a mixtape can help you—find your people, be your therapy.

"I wanted the queer dance vibes to be strong on my playlist because that music has truly gotten me through this quarantine + the past few years." —Chris Marion @bmgpm  

Whatever gets us through, right?

"Music to me is an energy, it flows through mine and your body together connecting humanity as one." —CML, 11yrs @mydaughter

Below, see a video entry from artist and musician Lie Ning.

Lie Ning: What does music mean to me?

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