Music brings forth past memories and thoughts, and synthesizes from them a completely new concept. "This is in itself a new experience, and one which is very much more profound and stirring then the individual experiences of which it is composed. It is in truth, a mystical experience, and we might say of it what William James said of the religious mystical state: 'The keynote of it is invariably a reconciliation. It is as if the opposites of the world, whose contradictoriness and conflict make all our difficulties and troubles, were melted into unity'" (McLaughlin 108). This unifying power is one of most important aspects of music.
James H. Cone experienced the unifying power of music firsthand: "I grew up in a small black community in Bearden, Arkansas, where black music was essential for identity and survival" (Cone 1). Music helped Cone's community stay together, and it also helped link them to the larger black community. Music allowed Cone's community to "refresh their spirits in the sound and rhythm of black humanity" (Cone 1).
Cone believes that "Black music is unity music. It unites the joy and the sorrow, the love and the hate, the hope and the despair of black people; and it moves the people toward the direction of total liberation" (Cone 5). Music not only united Cone's community, it also united the emotions of each member of that community.
In Africa, music is a necessary part of a community. Music helps Africans relate to their fellow Africans and to the rest of the world. "Music is essential to life in Africa because Africans use music to mediate their involvement within a community, and a good musical performance reveals their orientation toward this crucial concern. As a style of human conduct, participation in an African musical event characterizes a sensibility with which Africans relate to the world and commit themselves to its affairs" (Chernoff 154).
African music consists of multiple rhythms that combine to form a cohesive whole, and this is in many ways true of African life as well. "African affinity for polymetric musical forms indicates that, in the most fundamental sense, the African sensibility is profoundly pluralistic." The African attitude toward music might be "a method of actively tolerating, interpreting, and even using the multiple and fragmented aspects of everyday events to build a richer and more diversified personal experience" (Chernoff 156).
The bond between audience and performer is especially strong in jazz. Live jazz is temporary and ever-changing. The performer and audience are drawn together by an awareness that they are the only ones who will ever hear the music they are hearing at that moment.
...unless we play it ourselves, listening to such music is the very closest we ever get to a perfectly sharp and consistent consciousness of our continuing being in time, "So that," as Eliot says, "you are the music while the music lasts." That is what the tragedy of music essentially celebrates, and live jazz never lets us forget it (Hartman 74).