Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.Plato
What is it about music that allows it to touch your heart so strongly?
What is it about music that gives it the power to connect with you on such a deep level?
What creates that meaningful experience every time you hear the touch of the first notes?
Why is it that some things you just can’t say in words all of a sudden are able to be expressed through music?
Music can reach inside you and stir up affections you never even knew were there. It can effect you in ways you never thought possible. When you start to listen to a specific style of music, all of a sudden, you’re taken on this emotional journey. Transported on the wings of music.
But what is it about music that makes it so powerful?
Music Speaks without Words
When words fail, music speaks.Hans Christian Andersen
I’ve always loved music. I’ve grown up singing, playing instruments, having music playing constantly around me, and learning to love and appreciate all different types of music. As I was thinking about music, I had this idea to write a blog post about music. So, I grabbed my headphones, started up my favorite writing soundtrack (the Piano Guys, without the lyrics so I don’t end up typing the lyrics!), my fingers hovered over the keyboard, and…
Sometimes when I sit down to write, the words will come full and free, but writing about music feels different. And then I found out something: It’s really hard to express in words the captivating power of music. You can feel the power and the pull of the music over your soul, but to capture that feeling in mere words is like trying to contain the ocean in a jar.
So, I thought I’d look up some quotes about music to spark my creative juices…and a funny thing happened. I came across a great many quotes where people are saying music is what allows us to express what words cannot. Now, at first glance, this can seem trite. Almost like a scapegoat so you don’t have to talk about the music itself. But the more I thought about it and the more I let these words sink in, the more I realized the truth of them! Music is the vehicle that allows you to express those thoughts and emotions of your heart when your brain simply cannot find the words to do it.
In fact, Ludwig von Beethoven (you remember him, the famous composer) felt so strongly about the power of music over the power of the written word that he said,
I would rather write 10,000 notes than a single letter of the alphabet.Ludwig von Beethoven
Now, I’m sure there are many writers who might disagree with Beethoven. And I’m not denying that words, poetry, beautifully written prose have the power to move your heart. To take you on a journey of discovery and imagination. To leave an imprint on your heart and mind so deep that you’ll carry that story, that poetry with you no matter where you go. And yet, music also speaks and speaks powerfully.
Music is the literature of the heart; it commences where speech ends.Alphonse de Lamartine
And yet, there are times in life where words just don’t quite cut it. Where they just don’t work. Sometimes you need something more to help you express the thoughts and feelings of your heart. That’s where music finds its true voice. That’s where music helps you express those feelings that need an outlet, but you can’t find the words for them.
Golden Musical Ratios
Now, some say that music is just a mathematical equation. It sounds pleasant to your ears because the notes are all balanced. They say the reason music has a pleasant sound is all simply a matter of math. I agree and disagree all at the same time. You see, there is a lot of math and balance to be found in music, but there’s more to it than a simple – or complicated – math equation.
There is this beautiful concept called ‘The Circle of Fifths’ that seeks to explain this balance you hear in music. Now, I don’t pretend to understand this entirely, but the big concept says when notes are in balance and in a particular balance, it creates a more pleasing sound to the human ear. Amazingly, the wording and the diagrams for this concept have only been around since the late 1600s and yet composers throughout the ages – even before this time – have been using this concept to bring balance and stability to their music. To bring a richness, a sense of completion to the music they write.
But is that all it is? Can music really be reduced to something cold, calculating, and unemotional? A mathematical equation and nothing more? Now, don’t get me wrong, the fact that you can see such beautiful and balanced harmony in music explained through math is extremely cool. The fact that you can not only hear the harmony, but see it written out in a math equation is nothing short of spectacular.
But can I let you in on a secret? Math is not my strong suit. And, I wonder, does math really begin to explain why music has the power to inspire? The circle of fifths is brilliant and helps to explain a lot, but there’s more to it than that.
Music Opens Your Heart
Music acts like a magic key, to which the most tightly closed heart opens.Maria Augusta von Trapp
Every time I read this quote, I think of ‘The Sound of Music.’ Do you remember the scene in the Rogers and Hammerstein musical where Maria is first meeting the von Trapp family? Captain von Trapp makes it very clear there is to be no music in the house. You can see from his words, from his demeanor, from his countenance that he has closed off this part of himself so entirely that he cannot bear to see it in others, particularly in his own children.
But music is such a part of Maria that she can’t help but sing and dance and make up songs and teach the children how to sing. As the story continues, you start to see how music slowly opens up the Captain’s heart. He was so closed off, so untouchable by emotion and yet his heart was opened by the notes of music.
And this is just one story demonstrating the power music has to open up your emotions. Music has the power to move you to tears, to excite you, to inspire you, and to reach you in ways that mere words could never do.
Music Can Reshape Your Emotions
It’s really hard to put into mere words the power and the impact music has over your mind, thoughts, and moods. And yet, some people seem to deny the power of music, the transient reality that takes you from one place to another on wings of elegant notes.
Music has the power to touch your emotions. To express in sound and rhythm thoughts and feelings that you just can’t seem to put words to.
Have you ever noticed how you can always find some music to match your mood? It’s true! There are so many different types of music conveying so many different emotions that you can always find some music to match the mood you’re in. To allow you to express the emotions you’re feeling but may not have the words to express.
It’s interesting to think about it from the other perspective, too. To realize that just as you can find music to express the mood you’re currently in, music can be a powerful vehicle to help you change your mood to something you want to be.
For example, if you’re feeling very rushed and stressed out you could find music that would act as a soundtrack to your mood. ‘The Flight of the Bumblebee’ springs to mind in this example! But if you’re wanting to calm down, to soothe your nerves and to allow yourself to relax, you could turn to some calm piano music such as The Piano Guys. By choosing to listen to music that is calming, you immediately begin calming down. The music carries you along, soothing you, relaxing you, allowing you to begin shifting your mood from rushed and stressed out to calm and relaxed.
Softly, deftly, music shall caress you. Hear it, feel it, secretly possess you.Charles Hart, The Phantom of the Opera
Now, some people say music is ‘extra’ and ‘frivolous.’ That it’s not necessary to everyday life. But stop and think about this for a minute: How many times have you found yourself humming as you do the dishes or keeping in step with a song in your head as you take a walk?
Music is all around you! Take a walk outside and pay attention to what you hear. Listen to the drone of the bees, the twittering of the birds, the babbling of a brook, and the whisper of the wind through the trees. Hear the pounding of the waves against the shore, the hum of the cicadas in midsummer, the crunching of autumn leaves when you walk on them in the fall. All of nature seems to sing in it’s own way, If all of nature is creating this beautiful soundtrack each and every day, why would you not want to sit up and take notice?
You see, music is intwined in life in such a way that it’s impossible to separate the two. Music is a part of life. It can been seen in everything you do when you stop and look for it.
Without music, life would be a blank to me.Jane Austen
So that begs the question: Where do you see music in your life? Are you listening to hear the music around you? Not only the music that comes out of the speakers, but the laughter of children, the bubbling of a brook, the song of birds, the chime of teacups, the chatter of friends. If you aren’t hearing the music in all these things, take some time and listen. Listen to hear the music.
Music in All Cultures
Not only is music all around us, but it’s everywhere. Think about it for a second: If you were to travel to any part of the globe, you’ll see firsthand the importance of music. In every culture, you’ll encounter some form of music.
The power and emotion in the skirl of the Scottish bagpipes…
The lively yet mournful sound of the Irish dance…
The cheerful sound of the balalaika…
The ethereal sound of the Chinese strings…
The powerful cadence of the African drums…
The joyful, engaging, invigorating beat of salsa music…
The mournful yet peaceful and relaxing tones of jazz…
The majestic feeling of the classic symphonies…
The dramatic and enchanting story of the tango…
The deep, rich, earthy tones of the didgeridoo…
From lullabies to symphonies, from the soft and gentle tones of a love song to the bold and aggressive beat of the war dance, from the oldest to the youngest, from the villages to the cities, music is a part of life that cannot be denied.
The Language of Music
And not only will you hear music in every corner of the globe, but no matter where you go, no matter what language you speak, you can understand music. You see, music is a universal language. Its power and emotion can be conveyed not only through the words in the lyrics but through the notes of the music.
Have you ever noticed that even when there are lyrics to music, you can understand the music even if you don’t speak the language?
Take opera for example. Opera is mostly sung in Italian, yet not everyone who enjoys opera speaks Italian. When you first hear the words of the music, you don’t understand what they are singing and yet you can feel the power and the emotion of the story coming through the music.
Folk songs are another example of this. Folk songs are best when they’re sung in their native language. And yet even those who do not speak the language can enjoy the power, the fun, the community that comes through the music and makes you feel a part of it. You’re able to join in the fun and frivolity even when you can’t understand a word.
As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said,
Music is the universal language of mankind.Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
A Final Note
Do you hear it? Are you paying attention?
Oh, my Friend! Don’t miss it! Don’t miss the beautiful, intricate dance of music that is happening all around you each and every day.
Take some time today to listen. To listen to the soundtrack of life, but also to listen and be inspired, encouraged, uplifted, understood, calmed and transported by your favorite music created by instruments.
As the brilliant detective Sherlock Holmes said through the pen of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle:
There is nothing more to be said or done tonight, so hand me over my violin and let us try to forget for half an hour the miserable weather and the still more miserable ways of our fellowman.Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in Sherlock Holmes
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Elizabeth Tatham, founder of Inspiration in the Everyday, is a homeschooling momma of 5 who loves helping other homeschooling mommas create a unique homeschooling adventure your kids will love…without the overwhelm! Join in on the journey with 7 simple steps to make your homeschooling day go faster, easier, and with less tears here.