When I went to sit down to write this blog, I found my thoughts straying away completely from the usual cookie-cutter review of songs I normally find myself writing, but instead, how the music I listen to makes me feel, how it impacts my memories, and the power it has over me.
A random guy on the internet defined music as the, “art of sound in time that expresses ideas and emotions in significant forms through the elements of rhythm, melody, harmony, and color.” Nicely, random internet-guy said.
One song can change my mood completely; or even elevate it. There are songs/albums out there that I deeply associate with people, specific memories, and times in my life–which absolutely astounds me.
For example, as I’m sitting down right now, typing this, I’m listening to a solemn, raw, emotional band called The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die (mouthful, I know). The more their music plays, the more I feel like I want to lay in bed and think about everything that makes me sad in the world, cry about it, and neglect all of my responsibilities.
Currently, the song “You Can’t Live Forever” is on repeat because the lyrics directly relate to some of my more (what I believe to be) profound thoughts, and I just adore the restrained and delicate vocals, yet abundant melodrama. It feels as though this song was written just for me and how I feel, making it movingly relatable.
“But why listen to sad music that makes you more sad, Xenna?” you must be saying to yourself. And to you I answer, because it’s a catharsis. I can feel every strum tug at my heart-strings, the flow of the music move me and my thoughts, each sound unveiling another emotion and how the music swells and builds carrying me with it. Now, the song “I Can Be Afraid of Anything” is playing, and I can feel the tears welling up.
“I’m carrying a heavy bucket back from the well. Trembling hands and losing water, losing my will. When we got home, nothing was left but knots in the lease. Now I’m heading west or someplace far from the East. Cortisol and Serotonin, stable’s a thrill. Anhedonia at the surface. Here, I’m in hell. I’m carrying this empty bucket, I wanna empty myself. Because, everything is getting rid of everything else. Pacing parking lots, ignored. We are the same, but opposed. Something else is supposed to happen. You aren’t having a good time anymore. It felt easy before I left, left in dust to carry myself. I really did dig my own hole, and I’m climbing out. I really did dig my own hole, but I can see the top. I’m climbing out. I really did dig my own hole. I’m climbing out. I’m climbing out. You can smell life here, what we call life above the ground. Hands stained dirty, but there is water to wash them out. Being this age always seemed so far away. How is life here, can we bring our trash outside the house? What we call life above the ground, left in dust. Left in dust to carry myself out.” (“I Can Be Afraid of Anything” lyrics)
But where music finds its power is not always in the words being said, but the instrumental accompaniment. “I Can Be Afraid of Anything” begins with a simple electric guitar strumming, then soft violin, next an easy drum beat, all disconnected and faint–but then they all crescendo into a cohesive sound and that’s when the singing begins. The music builds and gains pace as the lyrics explore inner feelings but the music abruptly stops at the very last line, “Left in dust to carry myself out.” This sound to me represents thoughts building and adding up into a moment where things become overwhelming emotionally, then by the end of the “moment” you’re having, you come to a realization or conclusion.
Now every song you listen to doesn’t have to be an emotional rollercoaster. Sometimes it’s nice to listen to something with no depth. “No depth” may seem like a harsh term but for electronic DJs like Chapel Hill native Porter Robinson, it’s hard to make heavily poignant music when a majority of the songs have no lyrics.
But what his music does do is evoke electrified joy and energy– pretty opposite from The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die. Although lacking spoken lyrics and made predominantly with a computer and synthesizer, songs like “Flicker,” “Sad Machine,” and “Divinity” found on his album “Worlds” definitely rile up my spirits in a refreshing way. The music Porter Robinson creates develops an atmosphere and sparks imagination, he even released concept art that matches how particular songs in the album are seen in his and his listener’s heads.
Pretty nifty all the emotions, thoughts and images music can evoke, isn’t it? Now, next time you listen to a favorite song of yours really think to yourself, “why is this song so good?” and maybe you’ll discover the meaning you find in music.