How Music is Instrumental in Breaking Generational Barriers

"Isn't he brilliant?" my friend's voice droned out as the man started singing the first couple notes of his musical masterpiece. Mesmerized by the singer's vocals, I entered a state of mind in which I ignored the individuals around me, and became one with the melody that was flowing off the performance stage. The waves were lapping back and forth to my left, slowly inching towards the stage; the ocean wanted to experience the vibrating sounds, echoing from the concert above, in their true intensity.

The black-bearded musician finished the transition into the next song within his repertoire and his son suddenly appeared onstage. This dark haired boy, with wonder-filled eyes, opened his mouth and out of his thin lips escaped the harmony of his father's song. His father joined him with a much lower voice, yet the difference between their vocals had no effect on the beauty of the piece sung.

Although music was penetrating the audience's auditory senses, an ambience of silent awe hung over the crowd, an ambience that was caused simply by what was happening before them. Father and son came together, without age playing any importance in this powerful exchange, and shared an intense moment of musically inspired unity. Almost as if one could see the actual tones pervading through their bodies, their voices blended into one and it hit me: the barrier had been broken.

Within the 21st century, there is a large barrier between generations. Parents have difficulty understanding their children's individual expression while adolescents have trouble accepting their parents' wisdom. Teens think they're right about everything while parents fail to understand or even remember the different joys and troubles of adolescence. As people grow older, they lose touch with the emotions they felt so vividly as teenagers. Their understanding of life evolves through the experiences and hardships endured and their priorities and worldview transforms drastically from that of their teenage self. As a result, a wall is constructed that is seemingly impenetrable.

Music, however, is instrumental in breaking down this wall, brick by brick. Music has always brought my parents and I together over a warm cup of coffee for the simple reason that it is timeless. A kid sitting in his room listening to The Eagles' "Hotel California," may not realize that the song was released in 1977, a time when his parents were teenagers.

The issue is that as people grow older they lose touch with the emotions that they felt so vividly when they were at their children's age. Their understanding of life evolves as they gain experience and endure hardships that teens are just not old enough to know. My mother has told me repeatedly that when she hears music from the late '70s, she's reminded of those times. Parents hear timeless pieces and remember their uncontrollable zeal for things that may not matter to them anymore. For example "Hello" by Lionel Richie can remind a mother of young romance, or "Baba O'Reily," by The Who, can bring back the memories of teen angst to a father. In this way music is able to build communication across rigid generational barriers.

The integration of multi-decadal music in the lives of different families could potentially heal the wound between different generations; leaving the bricks scattered and keeping the barrier broken.