NEXUS Lab on Music
Purpose Statement by Youn-Jae Ok, Co-Chair

Philanthropy in the contemporary context is often perceived as simply an act of giving (e.g. a wealth holder financially helping the poor). Though most notions of the act of philanthropy include such an aspect, its core meaning can easily be missed. The word comes from the Greek philanthrōpos, meaning love of humanity. In modern English, philanthropy is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “the desire to promote the welfare of others.” Desire is indeed an important aspect: it may be more appropriate to understand the word philanthropy as a state of mind and heart rather than simply an activity.

Music can be understood in a similar manner. While the technical act of performing is central to it, music cannot merely be reduced to technical craftsmanship alone. Its true power derives from how it invites lone individuals into a sense of community — one where faith, love, and passion are shared in a safe space. At this time, when fear and estrangement between communities is often instigated by violence and destruction, reunification and healing are global cultural imperatives. Though we may not always be aware of how we are being traumatized or assaulted, we may nevertheless urgently feel the need for a space and an outlet for healing and reflection.

Music is a non-violent medium that lives in time; its power and sophistication enables it to exhibit not only such aspects as form and content, but also meaning, sympathy, empathy, happiness, sincerity, consideration, joyfulness, faith, anticipation, attention, patience, affection, learning, and understanding. If you reflect upon these words in relationship to those with which we discussed philanthropy, you will find that there is much in common between them. Music is a state of mind and heart, that, through performance, becomes action. Music can be philanthropy.

Unlike many other forms of art, music is special in its frequent requirement of collaboration for its realization. Whether that collaboration is between musicians and audiences, or with the space itself, constant adjustment, with awareness and care, is crucial for sound to become music and not mere noise. Through music, we can both project and reflect personal stories and feelings, and find ways to harmonize and become one with our surroundings, rather than being limited to those personal stories and feelings to project and reflect only the ego of a single individual.

The NEXUS Lab on Music can be informed by such a notion of music: that is, one grounded in collaboration, awareness, guidance, care, reflection, feeling, harmonization, and synthesis. These aspects of music are central to change one’s perspective about oneself or one’s relationship to the world. For an artist to live responsibly and produce work that reflects society, experience is key. Music is an experience — an experience of unity and reflection on a global scale. It is such an experience that we wish to bring to the NEXUS Community.

The Co-Chairs of the NEXUS Lab on Music are Youn-Jae Ok, Christen Lien, and Mikuak Rai.

To learn more about the NEXUS Lab on Music, please email

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