When music can creare and convey a mood with just a few beats, it’s no wonder that emotions and music & song are deeply interwoven on different levels. And this throws up many questions, exploring how and why music mirrors what we think and feel – or do we mirror the music?
One way music truly mirrors our minds is in its diversity and its power to change in a moment. Just as music can suddenly turn from joy to pain, from darkness to light, so too can our moods and emotions. Music might do this by drawing on different instruments, a new beat, rhythm or time signature. Our mood can be changed by a thought, a memory, a sudden sight or experience – or a sound, a song or piece of music. You might feel down or simply tired, only to hear a familiar, lively song with a strong beat, and feel renewed. So not only does music’s own variability reflect our own unsettled emotions, but it can also spark them.
Maybe here it is also important to remember that the emotions music awakens in us can be negative and painful, not just positive. This might be because it’s linked to difficult memories or regrets, maybe a song you heard at a painful time. It might be because song lyrics remind you of issues you too are enduring. Or it might be that the music’s sheer beauty is just too poignant, too bittersweet. Music can make us think, and feel, too deeply.
Thought is integral to music’s impact and to the questions I’m exploring. Do we want music to stimulate thought, to help us think more deeply? Or do we want music and song more as an escape, as a refuge, a haven? Is it a way to shut out unwelcome thoughts, to quieten our minds so that music is all, for a time anyway?
This could be helpful for peple struggling with the kind of intrusive thoughts experienced by many with OCD – or for many other people who long to set aside thought for a while and simply be.
One question leads on to another. Is this true of instrumental music more than songs? If people want to shut out thoughts, is it easier to do that with instrumental music, when music becomes another language with no words to disturb us? Or do song lyrics actually help by replacing our own thoughts with someone else’s words?
Maybe a lot depends on the actual issues. So many songs focus on love and relationships. They might seem to express just what you yourself are feeling, so you feel less alone. Or they might be a world away from your own fears or experiences.
Music can also help some people express emotions – by freeing emotions which they were bottling up, which could be traumatic but also maybe liberating. Again, can instrumental music be more helpful here? When there are no words to limit our minds to one theme, we may be more free to interpret music to fit our own mood.
I would really like to hear your thoughts on any or all of these questions. It would be great if you would like to share in Medley’s Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/359291215486002 Thank you!