“Music expresses that which cannot be said, and on which it is impossible to be silent” – Victor Hugo Everyone loves listening to music. It seems that everyone I talk to has a favorite band, or at the very least, a favorite genre of music. On a dark and cloudy day, when a light rain is falling, there is nothing I would rather do than listen to “Banana Pancakes” by Jack Johnson. No other thing, no other action, seems to fully encompass all of my thoughts and feelings; better yet, there is no better way to express them. There are certain styles, genres, and songs that are perfect for any emotion in any situation.
Through sharing my attitude toward music with other people, I have come to the conclusion that, although seemingly impossible, it is possible to prove that music is an innate part of humanity. I would like to take a moment here, and explain what I mean by music. Music is the appreciation for what we hear; whether it is a bird’s song, the rustle of leaves in the park, or seeing a rock band perform, people are listening to music. With this definition, we can agree that music is present around the world, and everyone relates to it. This is a sort of connection that all humans share.
This human connection is key to understanding why people attach themselves to music so strongly—after all, how can someone performing their own songs reach out to a crowd of thousands? Humans are completely tied to music, and it shows. Music In Culture To what extent is music apart of humanity? Music is so prevalent that entire cultures are recognized when a signature piece is heard. The bangs of percussion instruments can be heard deep in the heart of Africa, along with the Natives’ howls. The Chinese have characterized the plucked instruments with a heavy treble tone that comes with quick bends in pitch (Philmultic
Management & Productions Inc. ). Austrians come to mind when their folk music is heard, and whenever someone hears a quality yodel, they know its Swiss (Plantenga). These pleasant sounds have been ringing out of these countries for so long that the cultures are now globally recognized for them. Having established that music is universal, it is important to more closely analyze a specific culture. What better than America, one of the biggest centers of pop music? The United States is a gigantic melting pot of different cultures, resulting in a rise of many different genres of music.
The Beach Boys had a fun, upbeat, lively atmosphere, Stevie Ray Vaughan rocked the blues to portray the doleful side of life, and Elvis Presley gave us a revolution in music all together, with catchy tunes, and lovable lyrics. There is a wide variety of music in the American culture, and this variety causes a lot of people to love music. However, the love for music does not go without its differences. For example, the foreign music of India is odd to the typical Western audience. Indians use different tuning that doesn’t sound quite right to the American audience.
While American songs have a pattern that is repeated throughout, Indians lack chord progression in their songs. Also, Americans use their chest to resonate sound, while Indians have more of a whining tone in the back of their throats. Americans view these musical practices as strange; but, of course, they sound perfectly normal to someone that has been raised in that culture. It does not matter, then, what the music may be, but that the very existence of music connects humanity on a deeper basis (Schmidt-Jones). Neurology of Music
This connection runs deeper than you might think— music is physically engrained in us. From the time we are born, there are neurons that are specifically developed to register music. Our encounters and reactions to music connect with different regions in the brain, and this could possibly be why humans all feel, to some extent, the same way when they hear music. There is a region for hearing the music, a region for the expectations of what will come next in a song, a region for associating it with past memories and general knowledge, which arises emotions, and a region for turning the emotions into actions.
These multiple regions of the brain all work in unison when listening to music, which makes the act of listening so intense. The region that associates what you hear with past memories lets us truly relate to the lyrics of a song, because we have experienced somewhat of the same thing as the lyricist has. Our expectations of timing, pitch, and even the notes themselves take us for a ride, because most of the time our expectations are not met. But for once, this is not a disappointing experience; it is one of wonder, and joy. This joy is so overwhelming that a region in our brain causes us to dance.
This is a part that tells your body what to do subconsciously, one that we cannot stop. This is what gives a non-musician the want to join in by tapping his foot or patting his legs. When someone hears music, the brain is what makes listening so powerful (Science Festival Foundation). Emotions of Music Music is innate to humanity for this very reason; the brain is what we use to appreciate music—and, although it may not always seem like it, everyone has a brain. But what is it exactly that everyone relates to? Music draws out emotion, and people depend on music to express emotion in ways other things can’t.
It creates a human connection through these emotions. Emotions are why we listen to certain styles of music at certain times. Music is used and felt in different ways. In fact, there seems to be a particular style of music that accompanies each event in life. A violinist sets a sweet, soft, and dramatic mood for a romantic dinner, while a soldier prepares for war by listening to the violent lyrics in a heavy metal song. A group of juvenile delinquents may listen to punk rock before doing something illegal, while an older man listens to Jimi Hendrix while getting high.
A yuppie listens to an acoustic guitar player at the local Starbucks, while a family is on a road trip, listening to an old country song. Music accompanies everything humans are apart of (Zimmerman). Likewise, humanity incorporates different music into different scenes of life because each style of music draws out specific emotions. We choose which genre naturally draws out the emotions that are already being stirred by the event itself. Music adds to the intensity. It makes us appreciate a gloomy day by installing feelings of melancholy. It gets the adrenaline rushing with fast paced drumbeats, and screams of raw power.
It puts us in agony when the minor chords accompany lyrics that stir up dreadful memories. It puts us in muse with quick changes in time, and odd accents. It makes us loosen up with the groovy beats, suave melodies, and punchy rhythms. In a way different from anything else, it makes us feel. What’s interesting is that the same music can make people feel differently. Take the song “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” by Death Cab for Cutie, for example. When shown to my roommate Mike, who is a romantic, he noticed the light tone of the chords, and the somewhat fast beat.
He also perceived the message of the song as one of love and commitment. However, when shown to my friend Matt, who has suffered a recent break-up, his interpretation was more somber. The chords may have been light, but the tone of his voice drew out strong emotions of sorrow from Matt. The message he perceived was one of loss, and coping with that pain. It seems, then, that the situation is responsible for the emotions, not the person. This discovery is actually quite significant, because it explains one of the biggest centers of music: a concert.
Whether it is classical, hip-hop, or rock, a concert unifies the entire audience with the same emotion, again creating that human connection aforementioned. The ominous sounds of Bach’s symphonies paint grand detailed pictures in people’s minds; in a concert hall, everyone sits in awe while envisioning these images. Everyone gazes in amazement while a professional violinist lays down a beautiful melody that was composed hundreds of years ago. In an Autumn’s concert, the whole crowd stares at the ground, contemplating the rush of harrowing emotion that is flowing through them.
People feel unified at concerts; no one around them is condescending, but everyone is supporting of the emotions because they all feel the same way. It seems that a concert is a sort of isolated utopia, reserved only for music and those that have come for it. T. S. Eliot puts it best: “You are the music while the music lasts. ” Lyrics While people feel unified with each other by listening to the same music, they also feel unified with the artist. The one thing that an artist has to connect himself directly with his audience is his lyrics. Although music ithout lyrics can draw out emotion, the words of a song put the listener through an entirely different experience. Artists write words that can draw in a multitude of crowds, no matter the listener’s personal preference of genre. All that matters is that they agree with the message. If the lyrics are shallow, but the music speaks for itself, another crowd is drawn in. This music is more for those that dance, because it gives them a chance to focus on the beat, the rhythm, and the tunes, without fear of losing something else in the words. Therefore, different lyrics appeal to different audiences.
People listen to music with a message they relate to (Murphy). (Philmultic Management & Productions Inc. ) However, the lyrics go further than just being a story. They are what speak for the artist, and his talent. The specific words he uses draw out certain emotions that all of us as the listeners can relate to. If the song is about partying, then it will most likely be played at parties. If it is about a break-up, then those going through difficulties in a relationship will really feed off it to help understand how they themselves feel.
It seems that the words of the artist help explain the unexplainable. That feeling of clarity is so strong that religions feel it is important to include music in the worshipping of their god or gods. It is intriguing that they feel they have the opportunity to communicate with such a powerful being(s) and instead of doing anything else, they choose to sing. There are other forms of communication, but at that point they feel music is the best choice. The words in the message they sing are that of hope, so that they may be reassured in their religion. The words also include feelings of sorrow and humility.
These lyrics help them cry out to their god on a basis that is different than any other way (Jr. ). The lyrics by themselves, however, are not enough. They must be coupled with the music, because the music is what carries them to the listener’s ear. Without the music, the words become nothing more than a book. And a book is a good way to express feeling, but a sad ending to a book can never compare to a minor note sung from depths of someone’s chest. It doesn’t make you sway back and forth with your friends; it doesn’t let you scream the words out loud in agreement.
The music takes the words to a whole other level, making the music experience that much more unique. The power of a good message in a song can persuade many people to do one thing or another. You can use music to create feelings of peace, as with John Lennon, or feelings of hate, as with racist heavy metal bands. The lyrics and music working in tandem create euphoria, despite the actual message. It feels relieving to have something explained through music that you couldn’t have with anything else. The music and lyrics create the human connection with uniting messages.
The human connection, and the lyrics themselves, are intensified with metaphors. It seems that the strong use of these comparisons is what seems to help carry the message. It might be difficult to get someone to relate to a specific situation through just an explanation, but when that situation is compared to one that is shared by all people, then all people can tune in and participate in this song. The metaphors themselves carry across a message too; that is, the words used in the actual metaphor help intensify the underlying message.
Also, when the metaphor is heard, it can be interpreted in several ways. This feature is very helpful when it comes to spreading the music itself. The more that people can relate to your music, the more other people will hear about it and join in. Metaphors are a fantastic part of lyrics that help clarify the underlying message, and help amplify its intensity. Dancing Lyrics help people connect to the song and the artist. It seems that humanity deems it only natural to express their strongest emotions through music. It is deep within a person to have music be apart of their lives.
Such a need for music calls for an equally strong reaction when a person listens to it. People have such strong emotions evicted through music that the music itself changes from just being a mystery in your head to being a physical action. Listeners are so moved when hearing a beautiful opera that they are brought to tears; likewise, musicians on stage will be so passionate about their music that they fall to their knees while playing. Even the unclear growls of a death metal band cause onlookers to whip their head back and forth (headbang).
Some hip-hop songs cause feelings of arousal, and if in the appropriate setting, these feelings are acted upon. The human connection comes into play when music causes people to move together. Dancing is as prevalent as music throughout cultures. Again looking to the deepest parts of Africa, one can find the Natives dancing around a campfire, jumping to the rhythm. French women put on a show with the can-can, while those in Ireland are river dancing. It seems that dancing completes the full expression of emotion. A newly wed couple spends some of their first few hours together dancing, expressing romance.
On the other hand, headbangers at a death metal concert will mosh; that is, run around throwing elbows and fists at each other—an action not so romantic, but an expression of emotion nonetheless. People go to clubs and grind to the beats of hip-hop. Music just makes people want to move, and it’s practically unstoppable (Science Festival Foundation). One last way people channel the emotion that flows in them when listening to music is participating in the music. Singing along to your favorite song as loud as you can relieves the built up emotion inside you.
Even patting the steering wheel to the rhythm of the song makes you feel apart of it. A group of college kids will sing and drink to a song they all know and love. Participating makes the music experience really come alive. Conclusion It is important to realize that music is more that just sound. Music is an expression of emotion, for the artist and the listener. It is what we use to relate to other people, even people that we may have never met before. It connects humanity on a deeper level than anything else. It conveys the unexplainable unlike anything else. And it is apart of us, unlike anything else.