Friends and I were discussing yesterday how playing and experiencing music together with other people, in bands, orchestras, choirs, whatever group, is a magical experience. When I’m playing in a group I always feel that we’ve got on a train, and once it gets going we’re not stopping until we reach the end of the journey. We’re a unit, yet we’re still individuals. When we’re in that moment, we’re creating something that is so much bigger than the group. So what is that thing that makes 2+2=5? Where does the extra 1 come from?

For years now I’ve imagined that my (completely imaginary) PhD thesis would been on the phenomenon that is stadium singing. As I’ve carried this idea around with me for so long I knew it would have already been done, and a friend told me yesterday of a Coursera class in Model Thinking where these sorts of things are touched upon. (The next class starts on October 7th if you’re curious about using models to make sense of the world around us. I’ve just signed up – thanks AN, and thank you technology!) I can understand when a group of 10 or 100 people making music together know and feel when to get louder, slow down, repeat, etc, but when it’s literally tens of thousands of people, how does that happen? Who is in charge of this? Who starts the song or chant off? Who sets the tempo? How do 80,000 people decide together to repeat it? Who says when it’s finished? Do we have a natural instinct for this community music making phenomenon? The whole thing is a big curiosity of mine, and once I’ve taken that Coursera class I’ll let you know how it works! In the meantime, if you’ve never watched European football, here’s what I’m talking about. It’s amazing, awe-inspiring and scary, all at the same time!

The power of a musical experience – Part 2
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