Music Is Magic, Part One

When I’m listening to new musical material for my studio I like to hear it without lyrics, at first. I like to hear it without the influence of a singer to shape my interpretation of the piece. I want the music to speak for itself; make its own first impression. Recently, new music arrived and like a kid in a candy store, I couldn’t wait to sit down to review it. But I was not prepared for the powerful journey it would take me on. The chord progressions were so beautifully rendered that they ushered in unsolicited tears, reducing me to a puddle of emotion. I am sure that many of you have had similar experiences, but have you ever wondered how or why music has this kind power over you?

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Music, my friends, is magic. It’s all around us.  It’s in the hum and whir of machinery, in the dissonant shrieking of an ambulance, in the rhythmic sounds of wood being split, why even Mother Nature has her own orchestra. If you listen closely you’ll hear it in birdsong, or the conversations of bullfrogs, in the whisper of leaves fluttering in the breeze, or the rushing stream, as it makes its way down a treacherous mountain pass, and in the crickets that chirp, filling up the night air.

How is it that something that’s not alive, at least not in the way in which we understand things to be alive, can still breathe, with animation, through the ebb and flow of the rhythms, dynamics and melodic phrasing of music? How is it possible that music can express and petition a full range of emotion? It sooths us, makes us laugh and cry. It transports us to distant lands and forgotten eras. It can move us to action, make us cower in fear, or make us stand up and cheer.

Imagine your favorite movies absent the music that’s designed to strategically draw you deeper into the story. Hunger Games without that haunting dirge-like melody, that’s played throughout the series, would not be nearly as compelling. The Shining, whose musical score is designed to make us squirm, shrink in our seats, and then scream “WATCH OUT” at the idiots who are about to be claimed by the villain, would become completely toothless. The Bourne Series, with its many chase scenes, would not deliver that same adrenaline rush if not for the driving music meant to have you biting your nails, and on the edge of your seat.

But how does that happen? How does music create emotional shifts that illicit physiological responses like chills, goosebumps, tears and laughter? I’ve always known and accepted these things to be a musical reality, but until recently I’d never dug deeper for the scientific explanation. Then I saw this YouTube video and I learned that, not only is music magic, but music is medicine, and music is miraculous.

I know. I can hear you right now. You’re saying, “Wait a minute. She didn’t answer the question.” And you are right, I didn’t. I wanted to lay the ground work first. So if you want to know the answer you’ll have to check next week’s blog post, Part Two of Music Is Magic. See you then. Until next week have a magical, musical week.

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