During the weekend of the recent London riots, I was sitting using my laptop with three browser tabs open, one following the Twitter comments, one with live pictures of burning and looting filmed by a BBC News helicopter and the other listening to a prom, Nielsen's Fourth Symphony, "The Inextinguishable". The music was stirring and fitted the images and frantic twitterings well. This wasn't just a form of voyeurism on my part as one of my daughters lives in Tottenham. Maybe, I mused, what the police riot vans needed was a sound system so that they could bombard the threatening, angry crowds with soothing ambient music. Fantasy but, who knows, it might work. Music can certainly affect the way our emotions react, particularly in a crowd situation.
A few days ago I attended a workshop. This was something off the beaten track for me and was stimulating and enjoyable from a musical point of view. It was about the affect that music has on us, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Part of the day was spent listening to extracts of "favourite" music that the participants had brought along and shared with the group. We each had an opportunity to comment on how we responded to these musical extracts. The responses were quite remarkable but not unexpected considering how wide a variety of musical tastes exists even with a small group of people, in this case about ten of us.