Why the Best Way to Experience Music Is In a Crowd
    • MONDAY, AUGUST 28, 2017

    • Posted by: Olivia Lewis

    A couple weeks ago, I attended a MoMA PS1 Warm Up event, which was one part of a series of shows happening in New York throughout the summer. Specifically, I went to see SOPHIE's set, which ended up being everything I could have wanted from a SOPHIE set; the ambiguity of whether he was making high art comparable to what was on exhibit inside the museum or noise-trolling an entire crowd made it really fun not only to watch him DJ, but to watch the people around me react to him.

    Before his set, though, I was feeling a little out of place. I had come alone - none of my friends who were in the area were really that into SOPHIE or any of the other DJs that were performing. Before SOPHIE was scheduled to come on, I wandered through the exhibits to avoid the clumps of friends hanging out outside. When I finally ventured outside, things changed when I joined everyone jostling to get closer to the DJ booth. I remembered one of the things I love most about live music - being a part of the crowd.

    The great thing about being a part of the crowd at a show is the connectedness you feel. It doesn't really matter if you're surrounded by friends or strangers - in a crowd, the crossing of typical personal space boundaries seems to change everything, and people can dance, feel, and just be together. Suddenly, despite not knowing anyone, I wasn't alone anymore. I also think being around a bunch of people all listening and reacting to the same music amplifies the emotions you feel from music. Sure, you can sit at home and listen to your favorite artists, and probably feel more physically comfortable without a bunch of sweaty bodies nudging you endlessly, but hearing the climax of a great song alone just doesn't compare to experiencing it with the crowd.

    It's also cool to think about it from the perspective of the performer. Social media makes it a lot easier for musicians to know that their music is touching people, but connection in that sense is kind of abstracted. The artist can imagine their fans listening to their music individually and being affected in some way, but when an artist is in front of a whole crowd of people physically expressing their emotional responses, there's a much more visceral connection. There's a sense of power in performance; an artist can move a crowd to euphoria or tears with their music.

    Research in psychology and sociology supports what concert-lovers probably already subconsciously know - being a part of a crowd at a show can effectively fulfill the basic human need to belong. The term "collective effervescence," coined more than a hundred years ago by sociologist Émile Durkheim, describes the collective feeling of excitement, euphoria, and unity felt by members of a crowd. Durkheim came up with the theory to explain the development of religion, but it seems to line up perfectly with other group experiences, including sporting events, protests, and of course, concerts. So, the next time you're considering whether or not to buy that ticket, know that even though it's technically a luxury, seeing your favorite artist live could actually be good for your mental health. Treat yourself!
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