Music is the most powerful form of human expression.
Sure, that’s a bold claim but think about it – each of you reading this probably has a subconscious (or Spotify-curated) playlist of your life. Songs that can make you remember, that can make you forget, that can make you laugh, that can make you cry, all in just a two minute and thirty second snippet.
So I’ll say it again – music is the most powerful form of human expression.
Music has been my companion through breakups, new loves, mental struggles and more. Music gave me the ability to speak my mind and share my experiences with others. It let me connect, taught me how to empathize and keep an open mind. More than anything, music gave me a voice.
It’s with this same love for music that I approach my Dietrich Honors Research Fellowship.
If you haven’t read the summary of my project on the official Dietrich homepage, here’s a quick review: My project studies the changes in the Pittsburgh music scene over the last 10 years, and how cultural forces like gentrification and urbanization have pushed the scene underground and into different neighborhoods outside of college areas. In turn, I’m interested in looking how these changes, notably the rise of the “Do-It-Yourself” or DIY aesthetic are signs of larger changes within the music industry, particularly how music is distributed and heard by consumers.
Although the final shape my project will take is still tentative, I want to make sure I can capture the way music has transformed the lives of so many people in the city. I also want to capture how music itself is transforming, for better and for worse. To do so, I’m hoping to incorporate filmed interviews, audio clips, concert footage and more to curate an intimate experience demonstrating the power of music.
But why is this project so important?
Compared to other projects that may be more scientific or even more ambitious (sorry, no Hyperloops or cancer cures here), I admit my project may seem a bit trivial. Yet, every day people are being displaced by large corporations that inherently change neighborhoods and the nature of our city. These cultural forces do more than just bring J. Crew and Apple to Walnut Street – they first repress, and then oppress, the disenfranchised, stripping them of their homes and then their voices.
For many of you, this may seem a bit political (#feelthebern). But music is political – it connects us and helps us communicate and understand things across cultures and times. When the music is pushed out and eventually begins to die, the implications are more than not being able to see Beyoncé at Heinz Field. It’s the death of creativity, the death of compassion and the death of what makes us human.
At the heart of my project, and why I believe it’s so important, is my firm belief that everyone should have access and be able to perform, see and have the same musical outlets that changed my life. Everyone should have a voice.