There exist many essays on the appreciation of music as an art form and as an important part of human existence. What people don’t discuss nearly as much is how music affects everyone differently. Music can bring together conflicting feelings, tangling together emotions in ways people otherwise couldn’t imagine.
There is a difference between hating a song so much you want to turn off the radio and cry and hating a song that brings tears to your eyes but compels you to listen. In the second case, the listener connects with the song; an emotional connection is established. It is a different type of listening than the first one. The listener transcends the notes and the melody and the words sung to find a deeper meaning: something that rings true for them and only them. A different person can listen to the same exact song in the same exact setting and get something entirely different out of it. And that’s the beauty of music.
On paper, the music will look exactly the same to all observers. It will be blobs of ink, formed into music notes and words, not conveying much emotion. Yes, those who have more experience with music will get a slightly different feeling from it, identifying specific chords and notes and the tricky rhythms. But, it isn’t until we hear music that our experiences of it really begin to differ. We hear the emotion conveyed in the voice of the singer and the ferocity with which the violinist attacks their strings. We hear the emotion in the pounding of the drummer and the melody of the guitar and the harmony of the piano and cello.
The words in the song take on new meaning and the chords come together to produce new emotion. They can be major and happy or minor and forlorn, combining with the other chords and the words and the instruments to produce very specific sounds.
And our experience with this music is determined by our past experiences. With other songs similar or very different from that one and experiences in our life outside of music entirely. Maybe a lyric reminds you of a specific time in your life, a certain thing someone said to you or a certain place you were. Maybe a phrase of the melody makes you happy or sad and reminds you of a time you felt a similar emotion. In this way, the song tangles together with your experiences and emotions to make them inseparable from each other. The songs not only remind us of things from our lives, they become representations of concepts or specific parts of our lives.
A single song can convey so effectively a whole part of your life, more effectively than you could with simple words. But, to someone else, this song can be entirely meaningless until you provide the context. You can relate completely and fully to a song and anticipate every single note and word and someone else just won’t be able to understand it at all. They have no concept of the things that make the song so perfect for you; they cannot relate to anything at all in the song. Or they can relate but in a completely different way. A song that is sad for you can end up being happy for someone else.
And this is what makes music so beautiful. It is so malleable and fluid and can be applied to so many situations in so many ways. So many people can appreciate the same song for all different reasons. Two people can sit side by side listening to the same song and have entirely different experiences. And this is beautiful. It demonstrates how different we are as people and yet can still be united by listening to the same song and applying our lives to the same words and chords.