It wasn’t that long ago, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, that music was universally enjoyed. Classical, operatic and jazz music were enjoyed by people of all ages; listening to the gramophone in the parlour, going to a classical concert or operatic performance. Was anyone too young or too old to appreciate classical or jazz music? These musical genres were ageless and crossed generations. Music used to connect the generations through song and dance: Luciano Pavarotti + Philip Glass moved people young and old. Louis Armstrong + Billie Holiday moved people young and old. Gustav Mahler + Sergei Rachmaninoff moved people young and old. Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie moved people young and old.
Music has had the power to unite us and it also has had the power to divide us.
Do you find yourself saying “s/he’s too young/old to like this music”? That could be ageism. Do you find yourself thinking that your (grand)parents or (grand)children won’t like or appreciate this music because they’re too young or too old? That could be ageism.
I often hear of people taking their younger relatives to a concert or gig, introducing them to music that they grew up listening to through the ups and downs of life’s moods or simply to experience new music together. It’s not often that I hear the reverse, of young adults inviting older relatives to a music concert or gig. Why is that?
I hope that will change. I hope that there continues to be all-ages clubs and gigs. I hope that those people who loved punk, rock, metal, R & B, hip hop, rap, electronica and anything else as a teen feel comfortable attending gigs later in life and with younger people. I hope that music evolves and re-emerges as an intergenerational and inclusive experience. I hope that kids also introduce older generations to the music that they love and that music is a concert of connection, adventure and love.
This past summer, I visited the Toronto Island Cafe where both Islanders and city folk are patrons and visit to enjoy the beauty, the vibe and the refreshments. The Island Cafe hosted live music concerts with local musicians and as I sat at the bar with friends, eating my vegan burger, we watched kids, elders and everyone in-between enjoying themselves: They sang, danced, chatted, milled about and sat with each other. It’s a beautiful example of the power of music connecting and uniting the crowd, deepening the sense of community.
So what can we do about ageism? How can we incorporate music into fighting ageism?
Perhaps give your friends and family a taste of the music you love and share what it is you love about it. Ask them what they think. Maybe they won’t like it, but they’ll appreciate you sharing it with them. That opening might inspire them to share music or a musician or an album that they love and describe what it is they love about it. Perhaps music will unite you in new ways.
We have a choice if we’re going to let the generation gap be a place to disconnect and divide or connect and unite. Each of us gets to choose whether and how we want to close that gap.
Have you had music introduced to you by someone in another generation? What music do you love and see yourself sharing with an older or younger relative/friend?