Music. It is the one common factor that unites almost all humanity. All cultures share a common thread: each has, in one form or another, some type of music. Times have changed, civilizations come and gone, but one thing remains constant: the curious ability of music to bring people together. From the flute and lyre of ancient times, to the bard of the Middle Ages, to the modern day rock star, music and the makers of melody hold a special place in the human existence.
Why though? Why does music hold such significance to us as humans? What defines “good” music? Humans hold this form of art in such high esteem for one simple reason: it puts into audible form emotions and feelings that cannot be described with mere words. Why is the group singing along to a guitarist around a fire, laughing all the while, so enticing and desirable? Certainly it could not be an appreciation of incredible musical talent. No, it is rather the heightening of emotions; in this case generally feelings of joy. The classical composers understood this: Bach, Beethoven and Mozart composed music that did not always require lyrics to make its point. Their symphonies relied simply on the emotions and passions they would invoke in their listener. Why are these classical artists still revered today? Because of the indelible emotional impact they made on their listeners, making audible what could not be verbalized.
Today, though, music tends to include and incorporate lyrics, verbalizing along with evoking feelings. Again, we see music taking mere words, that may not hold much meaning by themselves, and putting emotional weight and authority behind them. The combining of music and lyrics is the meeting of the concrete, precise art of language with the emotional, abstract art of melody. Combining the exact and the abstract creates a complete and full art form; one that fingers precisely the issue at hand, while also building an emotional framework that cannot be verbalized, but merely felt.
What attracts certain individuals to certain music is more complex and hard to grasp than why people gravitate to music in general. Each person grabs a hold onto a genre or artists that mirror and portray the emotions they most identify with. It is remarkable just how much you can learn about a person simply by noting the music they enjoy. Look at the lyrical themes and the emotions the music stirs within you. Listen to the feel of the music: is it upbeat, downcast, serious, light-hearted? Each genre of music has its own distinct emotional feel. Country, for example, typically takes a nostalgic, lighthearted romantic feel. Hard rock evokes feelings of loneliness, an almost constant melancholy and desire to rise above. Metal, quite obviously, possesses a ferocious anger, while pop music displays a wild, reckless state of mind.
It is interesting to note that even music chosen for “simply entertainment” or “just for the beat” still reflects the state of mind of the listener. Sometimes just the fact that an individual chooses music just for the beat, and in no way related to lyrical content or mood in any situation can speak volumes about the person themselves. The fact is that all people, consciously or unconsciously, choose their music because they identify with it somehow. In order for music to truly be enjoyable there has to be an emotional or topical connection. Without this bridge, there can be no empathy, and nothing compelling for the listener in the music. People choose and latch onto music that reflects their current state of mind and circumstances. Musical moods, in which a person may favor one musical artist or style over others temporarily, are caused by changes in a person’s mood or circumstances.
Music and shared musical tastes bring people together in a unique way, as they are drawn together to a type of music for quite possibly similar and related reasons. The driving force behind people using technology to share their music with others is often because they are grasping and searching for those they can identify with. Many a friendship has been born or strengthened when a common interest is discovered, because it reflects often times greater similarities between two people. Music also is a way that people attempt to express their feelings about the world and others. Once again, we see the unique ability of music to express the inexpressible. Often, when with others, a person will choose specific songs, knowingly or unknowingly, because they hope deep inside that someone will catch on, will take note of the emotional underpinnings, and hear the subtle messages. It is in the nuances of music that the loudest screams are heard. Are the songs of a friend drenched in sorrow and longing? Are they songs of joy, contentment? Of praise? Or are they filled with lament and mourning?
No person listens to a song, or enjoys a tune, simply for its own sake. Listen to the words, or the feeling and mood of the music, the flow of the notes. Does it soar to incredible heights, or dwell in the depths? Pay close attention especially if someone shares a song with you, or with the world. More likely than not it is their silent scream to be heard in a world that simply assaults us with a wall of noise. Examine your own music: what does it say about yourself, your hopes, your struggles? If you truly want to understand a person, know their music. Music is a key to understanding the heart, soul and dreams of a person. Don’t neglect it.