On Bands

Written by Mike Parish, Illustrated by Dan Tarnowski
On Bands

The modern “band” is a collection of musicians who get together to play music. The music may be original or “covered” material, material of “bands” that has come before. Usually, any solid original band plays a couple of cover songs, but the really original ones make those covers their own.

Some modern bands sound far from musical. These musicians bend the terminology of what music can be, including individuals who seem to play their instrument incorrectly on purpose, at least incorrectly due to standard beliefs about music and theory. Arguably, some of the best music arises from these “non-musicians.” Once in a while, these types of bands are what propel music forward.

It takes a certain kind of individual to be in and form a band. The very word “band” has a somewhat “classic cool” sound to it, not just because of the association of the rock and roll image but also because the word band is cool in itself. What could be better than “a company of persons or, sometimes, animals or things, joined, acting, or functioning together; an aggregation; a party; a troop”? Banning together with others to get something done is often a rewarding and amazing experience and it is the reason so many people form bands to begin with. You get things done by being in a band and it makes you feel good.

Bands are a lot like relationships. There can be complicated dynamics amongst members and bands tend to intertwine personal histories and the histories of other bands. There is also a commonly shared goal; everyone is in on some secret plan. Bands are intimate, small social clubs, like a bunch of kids meeting up in a tree fort. Many people who form bands subconsciously must feel some nostalgia and a want to regain this feeling or at least I do.

Everyone else is an outsider. They can see into the band but never truly be a part of it. They share the band’s relationship to their music by watching and listening, and in that way audiences are fulfilled.

I’ve heard that the reason many people see bands play is because somewhere deep down, they are living vicariously through their favorite singer or songwriter or artist. That’s also a pivotal reason why people form bands: people in bands make other people want to be in bands. Bands are sick. Did I mention I really enjoy being in a band?

It’s nice to connect with people on a level that doesn’t use words. Communicating through instruments and vibrations flying through the air is unlike anything else. By what people “say” when they play, you can learn a lot about them, maybe even things you wouldn’t learn otherwise.

Everyone speaks a little bit differently, but all can understand each other. Music, almost like the original language that the whole universe of sounds is made up of, becomes interpreted by tons of different brains and emotions and ways of seeing the world, and this is what allows it to continue evolving. Wouldn’t all music sound the same if we all thought about it in the same way?

There are a lot of bands out there making a lot of sounds. Given this fact, it’s possible for everyone to find something they like. Tastes can be refined, but very refined sounds can be found. But are the sounds bands make truly a subjective experience? That sounds like a topic of discussion for another day.

Bands need members to exist. There’s no such thing as a one-man band. There is, but that’s not a band in the true sense of the word. The next time you see a band, think about what the word actually means in comparison to what the members are doing. You may never look at music the same way again.

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