Arts Food News Other People

Music to My Ears

By Dr Marjorie O'Neill on March 29, 2019 in Other

Rock ‘n’ roll ain’t noise pollution! by Bon Scott.

At a time of celebration, music inevitably comes to mind. How better to express our happiness? Music is obviously important to all of our lives. It not only expresses our culture, it also defines and shapes our feelings. Who has not felt uplifted, nostalgic or just plain sad when hearing particular music? Music has always been an important part of peoples’ culture everywhere, including in Australia. While our Indigenous Australians have always used song and dance as a means of preserving and passing down history, in more recent years modern Australian artists like AC/DC, INXS, Kylie Minogue and the Wiggles have used music as a medium for telling different kinds of stories, often accompanied by appropriate dances. Music both mirrors and shapes our emotions.
I particularly love music in the context of celebration, be that in the context of a party, wedding or a funeral. Think about Kylie, Mardi Gras, Crowded House or the Gregorian chants at a requiem mass. Music, and live music in particular, elevates our spirits and manages to express our deepest feelings, which words alone could never do. Music goes to our heart and bounces back, vibrating through our social context. There are times in our lives when music is the only medium capable of expressing who we are.

Music has always been an important part of my family. My very existence is likely the result of music, but not in the way that the contemporary reader might imagine. My mother was the product of parents who met while performing as musicians. My grandfather, Thomas (Tom) Spooner, played the piano accordion and my grandmother, Marjorie Favell Spooner, was a singer. They met as teenagers while performing on the Holy Hour on 2SM – not quite my idea of a romantic context, but it worked for them! My mum, who did not inherit the musical gene, describes her childhood of a mother constantly singing and a father who played lived music with mixed emotions. For those who cannot hear the music, it becomes noise.

Yet music survives in my family with every family function marked by the playing of music and major events requiring some live music. We search for musicians and singers amongst our friends and relatives because we know how much live music will contribute to the occasion. My sister Bridget runs a Glee Club at her school in Clovelly. My niece has a role in her school’s upcoming musical. My mum, as dean of a higher education college, has actively sought friends to sing ‘We Are One’ at graduations because of the power of that song to break down racial differences and help build a common sense of being. Music often communicates much more than words can ever do.

I played the alto saxophone and piano when I was at school and some of my fondest memories were playing in the school jazz band. I have always sung and in my final years of high school I moved away from jazz and started singing opera. For me, music has always been used as a medium to cleanse the soul. My mum thinks that if I was a singer I would be more useful at family functions. She is probably right.

While music has been an important part of Australian history and culture for so many years, is there now a war against it? 176 live music venues have been shut down, often replaced by apartment blocks and supermarkets, with new tenants moving in and complaining about long existing venues. As such, many are now no longer able to host live music outside due to the new arrivals’ complaints. The Royal Oak Hotel, the Moore Park View, the Marlborough and the Kings Cross Hotel, all of which have stood for one hundred years or more, are now being threatened with noise complaints, with particular reference to live music.

In addition, a NSW Parliamentary inquiry into live music has found that noise complaints have been crippling live music venues. While some people like to blame lockout laws for the downfall of live music, the rationale for the failure of our nighttime economy in areas of Sydney is far more complex than just lockout laws. Similarly, it is a mistake to make a causal correlation between music and violence.

The demise of live music in Sydney has also destroyed what was once an integral part of the dating ritual in the Eastern Surburbs. How many of you can remember stepping out onto the floor of the Kei-Ron, the Delmar or the Palace to experience your first dance?

I love Australian culture but I do feel that we need to loosen up a bit. A few years back my family did a house swap and we found ourselves on the edge of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, where we listened to free music day and night. It was wonderful. Of course we need a balance in our regulations. No one wants loud music played in a suburban street, blasting till all hours of the night or early in the morning. But let’s not forget that music is important for our lifestyle and our self-expression, as well as an essential part of our celebrations.

I love the music!