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MIT blogger Sabrina M. '21

The Music Scene by Sabrina M. '21

by a non-musician

When it comes to Boston’s music scene, it certainly isn’t lacking. Now, I will start off by saying: I am by no metrics, a musician. I don’t know falsettos or crescendos or if the two are even related, but I know that whatever they are, I love listening to them. I admire music and musicians in a very disconnected way, like how teenagers admire fictional heroes knowing they can never become them (although, musicians actually exist, I can confirm). It is the one form of art where I am perfectly content being nothing but a spectator.
I think we can all agree when I say that music is one of the most relaxing things, ever. Whether you’re strumming a guitar wistfully pretending to be in a 90s kids coming-of-age film or whether you’re just listening to keep the silence at bay. Whether it’s blasting deep house music through my headphones while banging out a PSet, or taking a day off and going to one of Boston’s many concerts, or even jamming out loudly in our Haus courtyard, it’s the easiest (and usually most affordable) way to relieve some of the stress MIT can give. And trust me, there’s a lot to relieve. There is something so calming about drowning out all the noises of the world, even for just a couple of minutes. It’s almost like escaping the bubble of reality; a soundtrack to the daydreams that can happen if you just feel it in your bones. I for one see shapes that form characters and worlds and stories in my head that have yet to be written on paper, and I see colors that personify emotions in ways words never could.

various blurry but beautiful moments of music


Coming from New York, I had always been used to having a great music scene all around me: concerts galore, great local bands, everything. There are constant opportunities to be exposed to new music in all kinds of genres. So, I was pleasantly surprised when Boston’s music scene was comparable. There are still people playing guitars and makeshift drums deep within the subway (or the T, as it’s called here) and in little squares and plazas. Walking up the steps after getting off at Harvard Square and being greeted by live music to my ears is definitely a pleasant reminder of home. But music does more to me than just remind me of home.
Concentration, it turns out, is incredibly hard to find when your floor mates are hanging out, doing the exact opposite of concentrating. When everyone’s on different working schedules and all you can do is long to be not working, it can be real difficult to sit down and focus when you need to. The secret to this, however, is quite simple: put in some headphones and blast that music at ear-splintering levels like there’s no tomorrow (and when it comes to deadlines, there really isn’t). Suddenly, it’s as if everything else is nonexistent except the very intimidating PSet sitting on the desk. Knock on the door? Won’t hear it! Party happening next door? No way! Fire alarm going off because the third floor kitchen caught on fire? Good thing the carpets are (mostly) fireproof! All jokes aside though, escaping from distractions can be really simple. Unless you find yourself singing along too much to figure out how to do calculus, which is a real problem.
However, there are some times where you just need a distraction, when you find yourself bogged down with deadlines and formulas that just won’t get back in your head. In this case, concerts are an easy fix, even if only for a night. Often times, they’re even free! MIT offers so many free concerts during the year performed by our very own students, ranging from the Jazz Ensemble to the Symphony Orchestra. There are so many talented musicians here on campus that you don’t even have to take more than five steps to reach the music. Or, in other cases, musicians will come here, like at East Campus’ Fred Fest, or in the case of the small concert held in Senior Haus’ very own courtyard. Besides that, there’s just so much music to enjoy within the greater Boston area, to give you a real chance to get away. All throughout the year, a little bar in Cambridge known as the Middle East holds concerts in their basement; a nice, cozy little place where the air is vibrating all around from the sounds of electric guitars and powerful vocals. I went there in October, and just two weeks later I went to a concert in Boston’s famous House of Blues, just a twenty minute walk from campus. The energy from the crowd and musician was electrifying enough to make me forget about how stressed out I was just hours before. November was met with yet another concert, this time in Somerville, a bit of a farther walk, where the ambiance relaxed me more than any kind of meditation could. If you’re looking to get free, it’s there, you’ve just got to seek it out.

MIT’s symphony orchestra in the middle of rhapsody in blue


Even though I’ve only been here for a semester, I can definitely say there are times where you just don’t have the time to make plans to leave campus. Fortunately for me, music is just a floor below, where two giant, bulky speakers sit out on the second floor balcony overlooking the courtyard. Sitting out there, feet hanging over the edge, typing away work on my laptop, music blasting out to the world is actually my definition of inner peace. There’s the view of the Charles peeking out from between the leaves of trees and silhouettes of cars driving by on Memorial Drive, and then there’s the view of President Reif’s house, with grass perfectly trimmed and flowers always thriving. I can also say, I get a sick sort of pleasure listening to heavy punk rock loudly and imagining a fancy party taking place at our lovely president’s house, knowing all his esteemed guests can hear it (don’t tell him this, though). On some days, people will even be sitting in the courtyard or swinging dangerously on the tire swing, taking in my choice of music as they work on their own things or hang around and enjoy the air. Music at MIT is so many different things: an escape, a hobby (for some), a distraction, a connector. I can say with certainty that the music scene in Boston definitely hasn’t got me down.