Mark ‘Frosty’ McNeill: Music is a Fundamental Necessity

Southland Sessions gives you a look at art during COVID-19. Watch the preview now.

Artistic expressions resound with the spirit of humanity, binding us to our shared experiences. We move through the world grasping for light, and creativity is the beacon that brings us together. Although art possesses such potent unifying power, it can often be overlooked as superfluous. Music, due to its ephemeral essence is even more likely to be disregarded as frivolous but its fundamental necessity only amplifies in absence. The need for music is especially heightened in unbalanced times, so here we find ourselves, seeking solace and stimulation through sound once again.

I often think of the Southern California desert hungrily soaking up the seasonal rains, keeping this rare moisture in store for the parched days ahead. Music stays in our memory banks and is baked deep into our DNA. A flash of emotion or sensory spark can summon a flood of sonic information. Sounds can be recalled on our internal systems as silent symphonies or blasted for the whole world to hear. These responses when articulated and exchanged can build into whole ecosystems of greater understanding.

Mark “Frosty” McNeill holding "The World of Arthur Russell" by Arthur Russell | Courtesy of Mark “Frosty” McNeill
Mark “Frosty” McNeill holding "The World of Arthur Russell" by Arthur Russell | Courtesy of Mark “Frosty” McNeill

Grassroots music communities are resilient shape shifting entities, and when equipped with expanded tools for experimentation and transmission they thrive, uplifting whole societies. In the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic,we were grasping for opportunities to activate artistic expression. This yearning for connection is real. This moment has stretched into the endless now, and we can benefit most by forecasting into the beyond. While virtual platforms for musical expression often pale in comparison to the experience of communing with sound in physical spaces, we can capitalize on the novelty birthed by the current climate to innovate lasting modes of aural communication. Instead of focusing on constructing simulacrums of what’s familiar, our energies are best aimed at transcending the limitations of our present circumstances by innovating whole new musical mechanisms that may coexist with and enrich those of the past. 

It sometimes takes drastic circumstances to be reminded of the importance of art’s healing, unifying role. We’re in one such unprecedented moment right now, and through our productive actions in this darkness we have incredible potential for growth. Evolution springs from pivot points, so let’s leap high. I am optimistic that these trying times will reinforce music’s integral role as a potent, positive force in our society and bring greater support to cultural visionaries so that, as we inevitably face future challenges, we’ll be fortified by an outlook that celebrates the essential function of the sonic arts. 

Top Image: Mark “Frosty” McNeill spins vinyl on a couch. | Courtesy of Mark “Frosty” McNeill 

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