- An artistic form of auditory communication incorporating instrumental or vocal tones in a structured and continuous manner
- Any agreeable (pleasing and harmonious) sounds
Most people love music don’t they? I know I do. I like blues, rock and roll, classical, electronica, folk, and jazz, but I’m not so keen on boy bands, country and western, or rock. Some people only like rock, death metal, and grunge, others only like cheery pop songs, others opera, but it’s all music. Some we like, some we don’t.
More than anything else, music has the ability to stir up emotions, such as when we hear a rousing ballad, or when we hear a song we used to listen to when we were in love with someone.
Music and the emotions are wholeheartedly connected. A film without music just isn’t the same. A horror is not really “horrifying” unless you hear the screech of the violins, and who would feel a tear well in their eye if the music wasn’t just right, at the moment the stars of the love story kiss for the first time?
All this music can play havoc with the emotions. For some reason, it seems to connect, able to communicate complex emotions without words. It is in essence a language on its own, able to do what a thousand words cannot. How is it possible that the plucking of guitar strings in a certain combination can produce such emotions? After all, it is only a tightly wound piece of metal attached to a wooden box (sorry to over simplify it) tuned (adjust the pitches of musical instruments), and plucked, or strummed, by someone skilled in the art of the guitar. Let us find out why music affects us so much and what its connection is to our minds, and perhaps the universe!
My family have always had music playing in the house. My dad always liked jazz music, and my dad thought that my mum liked country and western, and that’s what he bought her, when in fact she liked jazz! It’s no wonder they divorced.
Like most teenagers, I only liked popular music, as that is what everyone in my peer group liked (no doubt I would have liked opera if that’s what it took to get me accepted into the in-group), and I never really paid that much attention to what my parents were playing, until the year that my father decided to leave my mother. It was at this time that I noticed a distinct change in the type of music being played.
I can remember coming home from school sometimes, and my mother would be sitting in the lounge, drinking sherry, and listening to a song by a depressing irish duo whose name escapes me. There she would sit, hour after hour, day after day listening to this same song, crying.
I used to ask her: “mum, can’t you turn this music off, it’s so depressing.”
To which she would reply, “no leave it on, it’s nice,” when it was so obviously helping keep her in a state of melancholy.
She played the same song for several years after my father left, sitting in the same chair crying. She wouldn’t listen to anything happy or upbeat, although whilst we were still a family, she always listened to up-tempo stuff. She was, I think, using the music to adjust her emotions, or perhaps it was the other way round, but she was sad, so she needed something to help keep her in that state.
Music was the answer. She didn’t want to break out of the sad state, and in a way, the chords, and therefore the vibrations, were affecting her, not only psychologically, but physically. She didn’t turn on the tv and watch a soap opera, or listen to a talk show on the radio. The only thing she wanted to do was listen to a specific type of music.
What do you think? Do you ever listen to music to put yourself in a specific physical state? When you are going out to a party, what sort of music do you put on before you go? Is it slow and emotionally depressing, or is it fun and upbeat?
When you are having a romantic evening with your girlfriend or boyfriend, with candles and a nice bottle of wine, do you put on dance music? No, I think it’s fair to say that we choose music that fits our “mood,” (a characteristic (habitual or relatively temporary) state of feeling). When the mood passes we change the music.
Some of you may say: “I just put on music I like, it doesn’t matter what mood I’m in,” but if you watch yourself carefully in the moment, you may see something interesting happening.
When you work out at the gym, and your heartbeat is high and the blood is pumping, do you listen to classical or opera? I don’t think so. We need music at a certain tempo in a certain rhythm to help keep us focussed on the task. The same goes for when we feel angry, don’t you think? We don’t put on quiet calming music, we want loud, booming music that mimics our emotional state, and perhaps even intensifies it.
Perhaps you’ve never thought about it, but take a moment now to consider it. The speed of the music connects to our heartbeat, and the harmony connects with our emotional centres in the brain. That music can do this is no accident.
If we look back to the time when our distant ancestors were around, they used drums made of hollowed logs, tuned to a specific pitch via a stretched animal skin, and were beaten with the hands in a certain rhythm and tempo during rituals, in which the “music” got faster and faster to get the participants into a heightened emotional state. We can see the same thing happening in nightclubs today. The music has a fast tempo and repetitive qualities, that enable the dancers to “lose themselves” in the music (even without drugs), because the music acts like a drug on the brain.
It is as if our bodies and minds have become one with the vibration of the music. We lose inhibitions, we lose the “me,” and we start to wave our hands, gyrate our hips, and move our feet faster and faster just like the ancient tribal rituals. With each beat, the pulsing, repetitive music and lights put us deeper and deeper into what could almost be described as a trance (a state of mind in which consciousness is fragile and voluntary action is poor or missing; a state resembling deep sleep), in which we lose our control over our bodies, and just allow them to be carried by the music.
People take ecstasy (a stimulant drug that is chemically related to mescaline and amphetamine and is used illicitly for its euphoric and hallucinogenic effects) to heighten the effects, but as anyone who dances will tell you, you don’t need it to feel euphoric. It’s the music that takes you on a hypnotic journey into a state of being that has lost all sense of “I,” and you become one with the music.
Have I lost you, or are you still with me?
People have often been heard talking about “the universal vibration,” and although it was generally doped up hippies talking about it, there could be some truth in this. What do you think? We have already seen that music has the ability to affect our emotions quickly; that it affects our heartbeat and the speed our brain vibrates at, but could music be the key to understanding something important in the universe?
There was a famous film in the eighties, where the scientists played a series of tones to communicate with a spaceship that landed on earth, and although this was science fiction for entertainment purposes only, if we look into this deeply together, we can see that everything in the world is vibrating – even you and me – at such a fast speed that we appear to be solid. But we aren’t.
We are a mass of vibrating atoms, bonded together, but not by glue. So if our atoms weren’t bonded together, would we just float into space? Or more seriously, would we become part of the universe?
Actually, by saying, “become part of the universe,” I am implying that we are not already a part of it, which we are. We just think we are separate.
It is only by accepting we are made up of molecules, which in themselves are not solid, that we will start to understand our place, not in the universe, but right here on earth, and realise that nothing is more important than that which already is.
If we could unbind our molecules what would happen to us? Would we die, or is there something, which those of us who have been grasping on to “life” as we know it “down here,” are missing? Is there really a universal vibration? Who knows. I just know that things are not as they seem, and that the only way we can find out the truth of it is to examine it carefully with our open minds without judgement.
Music is much, much more than just the next rock star strutting their stuff on stage. The right tones at the right tempo speak to us in a language way clearer than our own man-made language. How else can you explain the ability of a song – which is after all, just vibrations – to make us suddenly cry, feel excited, or happy? Music is a language we understand. We do not have to study for years to understand it. We do not have to take any exams to understand the connection we have to it and the connection it has to us.
Life is not solid. We are not solid. Music is not solid. Pure vibrations. Think about it.
by alan macmillan orr
‘the natural mind – waking up’