“Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.” —Plato
Why do we listen to music?
Music is a universal language. It appeals to our emotions, it has the ability to melt complex issues into things we can all relate to like, love, friendship, fear, or loss. In this way, music expands our horizons and opens our minds to new ideas. An uplifting song identified with a single person or group of people, conveys personal meaning, freedom, hope, inspiration.
Songwriting is an ancient and multi-faceted art form. Humans have written songs as a form of creativity, personal expression and battlecry throughout history. Putting words to music is one powerful way we can impact people on many levels, through their sensory perception. The lyrics often focus on ethics, morals or convictions of the religious/political/social activism sort.
Songs can unify people and move them to action. Certain songs can be anthems for a generation, like Bob Dylan’s “Blowin in the Wind” (1962). In times of national crisis, songs can be fortifying, like John Lennon’s “Imagine” (1971), by expressing widely-shared values or emotions to define a group’s solidarity or mission.
Musicians and their followers are social change agents, reflecting the world around them and interpreting or changing it. If you think about it, history has an extraordinary soundtrack.
Writing Exercise: What will be your legacy? What do you want it to be? How will you speak out?
Our writing instructor Christina asked each student to share their favorite song and explain why the lyrics moved them. The students went turn by turn exchanging songs that evoked certain emotions from them, good or bad. Multiple interpretations of the meaning behind a particular song makes it situated to serve as a forum for public debate about morals, politics and social change. By sharing songs that elicit certain feelings, our Ambassadors were able to share childhood memories, or speak out about issues relevant to them today. From heartbreak to feeling Under Pressure, the Ambassadors exchanged stories their song conjured up and how the lyrics inspired, uplifted, or comforted them.
One Earth Writing Ambassadors 2018 Playlist:
- Queen, “Bohemian Rhapsody” (1975) suggested by Vedika
- BTS, “Lost” (2016) suggested by Rawan
- Allen Stone, “Unaware” (2011) suggested by Lina
- XXXTentacion, “Changes” (2018) suggested by Elyce
- J.Cole, “Crooked Smile” (2013) suggested by Rithik
- Falling In Reverse, “Caught Like A Fly” (2011) suggested by Hannah
- Journey, “Don’t Stop Believing” 1981) suggested by Krisha
- Led Zeppelin, “Stairway To Heaven” (1971) suggested by Conner
- Macklemore, “Same Love” (2013) suggested by Alli
- Gym Class Heroes feat. Adam Levine, “Stereo Hearts” (2011) suggested by Michael
- Earth, Wind & Fire, “Let’s Groove” (1981) suggested by Michael
- ABBA, “Dancing Queen” (1976) suggested by Michael
- Jon Bellion, “Hand of God” (2016) suggested by Rithik
- Stevie Wonder, “I Wish” (1976) suggested by Vedika
Alex Young, a One Earth Writing Senior Ambassador co-facilitated the Ambassadors workshop alongside our instructor Christina. Alex led the discussion starting with John Mayer’s “Belief” (2006), quoting the lyrics “What puts a hundred thousand children in the sand? Belief can, belief can. What put a folded flag inside his mother’s hand? Belief can, belief can.” Mayer tells the audience that there is a moral war around the world with people’s beliefs, because we cannot change the beliefs of others. Should we try to change the beliefs of others? Where’s the line between proselytizing beliefs and secularism?
Each person perceives life in a unique way. How people act or react is affected by their perspective, life experiences, personal history, etc. To be an effective leader, we need to be aware of these factors. Christina and Alex asked the Ambassadors to write their own anthem/song using examples from the workshop, creating lyrics that invoke passion, create unity or another powerful idea.
If you had to speak out, what do you want to say? What will be your legacy?