Music Concerts and Religion
Whether you’re aware of it or not, modern music concerts are in fact religious experiences. Based on the same structure as ancient rituals, they are supposed to give you similar sensations. You might not believe it, but your outlook on music concerts is about to change. Why and how do modern music concerts imitate ancient religious rituals?
Since the dawn of humanity, our ancestors have had a craving for meaning deep inside them. Besides, humans are unquestionably social animals, and ancient rituals satisfied both of these needs.
In one of his songs, the rapper Kanye West asked:
“Is hip-hop a euphemism for a new religion?”
Short answer: Yes. You might say that music concerts don’t have anything to do with religious dogmas or deities. After Enlightenment – the age of reason – we’ve gradually been giving up on fairytales for the sake of science. Yet, the need for connection, emotions, and meaning remained unchanged.
The Emotional Impact of Music
Have you ever noticed how music can impact your mood? Upbeat songs can trigger a broad smile on your face, while sad songs make you cry.
Music has been our companion for centuries. It granted the shiver of emotion and a break from the dull, everyday life. Even if you’re not a religious or spiritual person, music has the potential to influence your current state of mind.
Genetic studies show that the sensitivity to music has been passed down generation after generation. Some tunes can give you goosebumps, others have an immediate impact on your brain. Scholars suggest that musical therapy will be significant in the nearest future.
Be it a psalm or Metallica’s “Seek and Destroy,” music can change the way you feel. Having been used in ancient rituals, twenty-first-century temples, and rock concerts, it’s by far the most important component of all three mass gatherings. Listening to music in a church or a concert hall is an experience that resonates with you deeply.
The Sense of Community
At the beginning of human history, we gathered in tribes. The connection between individuals was crucial for the survival of the tribe. As we’ve already established, humans are social animals that need to feel the presence of other people – friends, family, or fellow tribesmen.
To strengthen social bonds, regular mass gatherings in the form of religious rituals would satisfy our ancestors’ need for inclusion. How is that similar to modern music concerts?
When a hunter-gatherer attended a religious ritual, he wasn’t alone. Surrounded his neighbors, with whom he shared values and beliefs, he could strongly feel the sense of community. All of them were dressed similarly, spoke the same language, and chanted the same religious songs and mantras.
Today, attending a music concert is strikingly alike. You’re surrounded by people who enjoy the same type of music as you do, maybe you’ve got the same favorite band. Concert halls are so stuffed that you literally feel the presence of other people – you’re rubbing shoulders with them throughout the entire event.
There’s not a shadow of a doubt that you know the lyrics to some of your favorite band’s songs. Singing out loud with other melomaniacs is just a reflection of chanting mantras with fellow tribesmen in ancient times. Maybe you even dance, sway, and clap together in the moshpit, a custom exclusive for music concerts.
Feeling included is a strong craving in humans, and music concerts satisfy this need similarly to ancient rituals. The sense of community, combined with singing and dancing together, grants you with a religious-like experience.
Shamans, Priests, and Rockstars
Masses need somebody to lead them. Political strikes have activists, Hindu worships have monks, Christian masses have priests, and ancient rituals had shamans. Once there’s somebody in the center of attention, people can direct their prayers to a physical human being.
Music stars – be it pop, rock, or rap – hold an elevated position in our society. Fame, prestige, and money are all that successful musicians have. Sometimes, we ask our idols for an autograph, a photo, or even a hug. Sure, they’re humans just like us, yet they have a special place in our heart. We look up to these people and praise them.
This worship of musicians becomes even more evident during concerts. Performing on stage, they’re looking down at the crowd. The audience raise their hands high, some would be willing to spend a fortune to simply touch their god-like idol.
During a music concert, musicians take a similar role to shamans and priests. They’re responsible for the quality of your experience, leading you through it like a caring shepherd. Both Pope Francis and Mick Jagger become the center of attention. Next time you watch your favorite artist perform on stage, think twice about how they’re perceived by the masses surrounding you.
Struck by… Lighting!
Had the sense of community, an elevated idol, and music not been enough, both music concerts and religious rituals use one more trick. Both of these events strive to affect you through as many senses as possible. Visual effects have a significant impact on our brains.
What you see – colors, flashes, or life events – can leave deep scars on your psyche. Visual stimuli have been proven to cause mental trauma. There’s no evidence that lighting may affect your long-term well-being or cure depression, but neither music concerts nor religious rituals strive for long-term effects.
They’re all about the present, the momentary feeling of elevation and connection with something greater than you: passion, emotion, or a deity. Therefore, limelights and strobe lights can influence your momentary mood.
How is that similar to ancient rituals? First humans lived among the trees, and that’s where they prayed to their holy spirits, gods, or ancestors. If you’ve ever been to a forest, you might have noticed how sunlight pierces through the trees and bestows a warm kiss onto your face. Light – a blessing – coming from above is yet another example of how modern music concerts imitate ancient religious rituals.
Music has been an inextricable part of human history. Virtually all cultures – no matter their civilization development, beliefs, or location – created music.
Both religions and trends in music are signs of time. By listening to a tune by Bob Marley, you can feel the vibe of Jamaica in the 1960s. Similarly, religious songs backed by the chime organs and a choir take you back to the ancient times of worshipping Jehova.
One might call modern music concerts the “successors of the ancient rituals.” Their impact on society and culture will last for centuries.
Why are modern music concerts so similar to ancient rituals? We may have cutting-edge technology, worldwide internet, and takeaway food, but deep inside we’re still the same flesh and bone. You might not even believe in any deity, yet you’re still human.
And humans have their needs and cravings. Music concerts and events fill the gap left after religion. These events are but experiences. They give you a sense of community and inclusion. They stimulate your senses through lighting, music, and exclusive customs, such as singing or dancing together. Musicians epitomize our culture and become idols praised by the masses.
Though you might not be aware of it, we’ve been repeating the same structures and schemes since the advent of humanity. Next time you sway to the rhythm of music surrounded by other people, think about all the ways it “touches your soul.” Want it or not, attending a concert gives you a religious experience.