Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Music & Emotions

The past few months have been kind of rough on my emotions. I won't go into the details, but I have had some pretty hard weeks over the last few months. At least it's summer now, despite the monsoon season in New York, and I am finally starting to come out of my hibernation. I think I was just really impatient for winter to end, and for summer to begin because I missed all of Summer 2005 due to my broken arm. So I was pretty excited for the dark cloud of winter to lift.

Everyone has their own way of dealing with a slump. Some turn to retail therapy. Others succumb to a pint of Haagen-Daaz or perhaps party away their blues at the hottest new club. Or maybe you'll go outside and go for a run until you stop thinking about your crappy day (or crappy week, crappy year). There are lots of different ways of dealing and another way is with music. I have a certain set of songs in my playlists that I turn to when I just want to wallow in my self-pity. For many people, there's a certain solace to be found in the angst-ridden sounds of "Over My Head" by The Fray or the wistful notes from "By Your Side" by Sade. Throw in "Oooh Child" by Beth Orton and you have a soundtrack for a great pity party.

There’s something to be said for sitting around, throwing in a depressing album and just feeling sorry for yourself. Sitting around with sad music permeating the background serves as sort of a catharsis. And usually I feel a little better because I can wrap my head around the lyrics and tune, and forget about everything else. Sure, I have certain songs that I classify as my "happy" songs: "The Best of What's Around" by Dave Matthews comes to mind. These songs can serve as a pick-me-up. But throwing on some melancholy "Live Again" by Better Than Ezra is the stuff I really need when I'm in a bad mood. Why is my first instinct to remedy my sad mood is to play even sadder music? Why am I letting my iPod have a certain control over the way I feel? It's a bit odd when you think of it. I suppose it's like that saying "Misery loves company" and I just want some sort of validation for my feelings. Some of these songs also happen to be my favorite songs and you'll find them on my Top 25 Most Played ipod playlist. So maybe it's the nice familiarity you hear when you put in your headphones to tune out the rest of the world. It's something to depend on.

Music is really closely connected to our moods. This isn't anything ground-breaking, but sometimes it's nice to think about it. No matter whether you're listening to something really profound or some pop music fluff, one of the main goals of music is to create a sense of unity between the artist and the listener. And the music is giving you a common emotion, ideal or subject matter to latch on to. It inspires thoughts or memories in your head and in some way provide some clarity and that might be the best feeling of all.

6 comments:

g8s said...

Hey, there's a reason why Portishead was so popular...

Anonymous said...

From Jayne: The hand bell choir at my church (of which I am a member) went with some singers to a local nursing home here in the wonderful C'ville to share some music. It was really amazing to watch people who were oblivious to us become aware as they heard songs that were familiar to them. Music touches the soul and memories in such profound ways. Play Do Wah Diddy Diddy and I am transported back to my high school's gym for a sock hop; play Up, Up and Away and I am back on my first date with my partner; etc. While I am largely unmusical in a performance-way (I struggle with the bells), I can feel music permeate my soul. I once was driving from Richmond to C'ville and had the Sunday NPR opera on the radio. I could not understand the words, did not know a thing of the plot, but found myself sobbing. As Maya Angelou said in Gather Together in My Name, "Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness." Perhaps that is why music is so compelling for us: it is a refuge. Thanks for reminding me of this, Terence.

Aaron Weber said...

I've been listening to a lot of Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Company. And Cat Power. Mmmm, mopey.

Vangie said...

My ipod's sad mixes are called "Sad Rainy Crappy Day" and "Really Mushy for no Reason"!!! Lots of Norah Jones. TCHO, I agree with you on the whole pill for the sad mood is to play sad songs. I wonder why we do that?

Miss you

EM said...

when you mentioned early dave matthews, my first thought relating to you was the trip we took to the NC mountains senior year. remember how your cd player in your parents' car broke and we had to make emergency mix tapes for the ride home? and remember bart wanting to slow dance to "i'll back you up?" cornball. and remember the duke's of hazzard style window to the kitchen that we kept leaping through? okay, that last one had nothing to do with music, but it seemed pretty damn hilarious at the time.

Kristy said...

Hey! Emily and my mom are back! =)

Yeah, I feel music pretty thoroughly in my life too. There are some songs I hear that I feel are written by someone who *must* have been watching my life and feeling my feelings - songs that seem just written for me.

You know what? It makes sense to me to listen to sad music when you're sad. When one of our patients would die at the oncology clinic I used to work at I would go home and watch a movie that would make me bawl my eyes out (usually "My Life"). I didn't need help crying, it just felt good to watch a sad movie. I think it's cathartic. Who knows?

In any case, I'm right there with you. It's the same thing with when you're dating someone new, and you start loving all the cheesy pop love songs on the radio that you would normally scorn. =)