It’s easy, when preparing for the worst, to concentrate only on material needs and ignore the less tangible but vital elements of health. Music, and the ability to produce it, will be an extremely important salve on the mental, emotional, and even physical wounds of a diminished lifestyle, should the SHTF. Modern science has shown us that there are tangible physical benefits of listening to music, including the ability to help in healing illness and injury.
We must remember it’s only been in the most recent decades that the Western musical experience became the passive listening of professional recording artists. Now, they enter our homes, indeed, go directly into our heads, by way of technology. The manner in which we have customized play lists today was, for thousands of years, an unheard of luxury. The space and expense required for numerous and varied musicians at one’s beck and call would have been fantastical, even to kings and queens!
Given our contemporary habit of music-on-demand, it is reasonable to expect this to be something keenly missed, should our electronics and/or Internet connections become compromised for more than a few hours. The good news is that music itself does not depend upon modern power, and thankfully there are many ways to include it in our planning, even if we aren’t particularly musical ourselves.
In Case of Emergency
To be sure, the sudden loss of the ubiquitous music mobile device will cause frustration, particularly with younger generations, who plug-in to tune-out or separate themselves from others. Expect a period of unpleasant withdrawal! The wise home leader will keep a small stockpile of earphones and batteries, which take up little space, along with a plan to help individual members of the household transition. Having good radios available will help, if music stations are still on the air.
Consider making a list of favorite artists for each person in the household; then, stock up on CDs or vinyl records that can be played in a battery-operated machines. So-called boom boxes have CD players, as do the older model Walkman, if you can find one. Be forewarned if you are purchasing a boom box for CDs that the players tend to wear out long before the radio. There are also battery-operated turn tables available in antique stores and new models manufactured by Crosby, which even have an old-fashioned design.
It will also be important to maintain the ability for all members of the household to listen alone, when music is a much-needed remedy for heartache and other emotional difficulties, which will be increased during crisis. Consider tucking away a small player, batteries, and special musical selections, specifically for use during uniquely difficult circumstances, special celebrations, or for gifts. At some point, this modern way of listening could become as precious as chocolate or coffee.
What about downloading current favorites from mobile devices onto CDs? There are directions online for doing that with iTunes and other players, but be sure to test your CDs on the battery player before assuming they will work. Also, if you are planning to have a special computer available for use offline and expect to use it as a music player, remember that not all current media will play without an online program behind it. (Search “Preserving a Digital Library” on SurvivalBlog to read in more detail how to access digitalized information when the Internet is not available. Current computer models may require access to an online media player to run music CDs. )
Of course, all of the preceding presumes you recognize the folly of trying to keep a half dozen or more iPads, iPhones, smart phones, electronic readers, et cetera alive in a grid-down situation.
Crank It Up, Sonny
It would take a lot of batteries to keep the modern players running very long, so eventually you will need to turn to “old-school” music. If you are interested in a mechanical option, you may want to shop for vintage machines that may be obtained through antique dealers. These include the more well-known crank Victrola and Edison phonographs, as well as older music boxes that play beautiful music on rotating metal “records” or coil. (Some examples: http://www.musicboxesandphonographs.com/musicboxes.htm) Finding one of these in good working condition may take time, and it will require some cash, as they can run into the thousands of dollars. Do not buy one unless you know how to access its workability and understand the limits of your ability to fix problems. Also, these machines require specific types of records, which must be added to your budget and your collection.
You could also hunt down a working player piano. This will require purchasing the music rolls that bring you that honky-tonk sound. Naturally, finding someone to repair any of these machines may be difficult in a SHTF scenario.
It’s Instrumental, Watson
The most obvious, and simplest, way of keeping music alive, and promoting the social welfare of household and community, is through the use of individual instruments. Although it may seem a little odd in the world of Band-Aids, bullets, and beans, music instruction should be added to the list of important skills for preppers. (We’ll call that Beethoven or Beatles.) Most certainly those who can play will be welcomed for entertainment and social activities, should electronic music become a thing of the past.
Piano is still one of the most popular instruments. Fortunately there are still teachers available in most communities, and there are many books and videos to help you self-teach. A piano requires few resources, other than space and an occasional tuning. Often one can be found in good condition at a reasonable cost from private sellers near you or family members. (A cautionary note: some pianos weigh hundreds of pounds and require special equipment or half dozen men to move them, so think ahead before making a commitment.) You will also want to stock a variety of music books, including hymnals, folk tune collections, timeless classical pieces, favorite contemporary selections, children and family songbooks, and the all-important holiday tunes, many of which may be purchased second hand at garage sales.
Guitars, as well, have experienced a revival in recent years, thanks to the popularity of interactive games such as Guitar Hero (ironically). Again, teachers and online tutorials are easy to find for that instrument. Guitars can be relatively inexpensive, or extremely expensive, depending on the age, manufacturer, and materials used. There is a difference, and if you are looking to keep one for a long period of time, consult with someone you know who is well-acquainted with the various brands to be sure you get one that meets your needs. It goes without saying that you should have a good stash of guitar strings in your prepper store, as well as appropriate books.
Beyond these two, there is a great variety of non-electric instruments that would be welcomed in a grid-down world, so whatever strikes your fancy and fits your budget will do. It will be easier to manage and maintain something that is relatively popular and small, such as violins/fiddles, flutes, woodwinds, brass, or small drums, rather than something unusual and large, like a full-sized harp. However, when the lights go out, all instruments will be appreciated. For each instrument you are considering, learn about the necessary accessories and care. Woodwinds, for example, require reeds, and keeping them moist is a must.
As for learning to play, expect any type of mastery to take several years. Just don’t worry if you, or your older child, didn’t take lessons as a youngster. Adolescents and adults (until about middle age) learn much more quickly than younger children, so becoming proficient is certainly within reach. If you are homeschooling, do include basic music theory, classical and folk music, and music instruction in your curriculum.
If you are more mechanical than musical, consider acquiring the skills to tune, repair, or build instruments, or restore them for barter. There are some online tutorials, but an apprentice relationship would likely be more thorough, with a commitment to specific educational training and appropriate space for a work area and/or storage.
The Original Social Media
In a SHTF scenario, the opportunities for using these instruments and training in a SHTF will cover the entire spectrum of human event and celebration. Instrumentalists and singers will be in demand for worship services, weddings, funerals, and to perk up family celebrations.
They also are vital for putting together ensembles for those all-important social gatherings of the community, which bring joy and rest, as well as excuses for young adults to meet each other. Historically people have come together for holiday and seasonal folk dancing (including square and round) and holiday programs and concerts. Music also adds welcome texture to transition events, such as coming of age celebrations, which will add stability to the chaos of a changed world.
Sing … Sing a Song!
The simplest way to ensure a large quantity of music when the SHTF is to listen and learn religious folk and children’s songs that may be sung together, or just hummed around the house during chores. Many a child grew up hearing mother sing old hymns on wash day. Fortunately, it’s easy to download, check-out, or purchase whatever strikes your fancy and listen in the car or around the fire during those long winter evenings.
Again, it may seem strange, but do not ignore the importance of artists, particularly musical ones, when building your prepper circle. Artists are often overlooked, but they are an important conduit for processing emotion in humans and would be sorely missed during a long-term crisis. Certainly in difficult times, the ability to keep music alive will be vital to sanity and peace, truly “soothing the savage [beast]”.