Updated: Mar 27, 2021
In our most difficult moments, sometimes it’s just simply too hard to get back up. We feel defeated, broken and empty. We’ve taken all that we can and when we turn to the window, viewing the outside world, we cry out: I just can’t anymore.
We might lie there, our tears spent from the thing that has left us in this devastated state. Hope has all but vanished. Our will to push on crumbled. Yet, even in the worst moments when we have nothing left, a single sound tugs at us. Before long a melody begins, and words are spoken, reaching somewhere deep within the depths of our despair. They pierce us, cry with us and dredge us up below the surface. Like a sleeping giant, we rise and the bleak emptiness we were suffering from isn’t what it once was.
For anyone reading, I’m sure there is someone, somewhere, who can relate to what I’m talking about. I’ve been thinking about how to write on this and the question resurfaces time and again. Each time I think it through in my thoughts, a myriad of emotions follow. So the question is:
What is it about music that speaks to us so profoundly?
As human beings, we are undeniable complex and I dare say the most unique creatures in existence. We have accomplished so much in our short time in this world. But throughout the ages I think one of the most staple things every culture in history can boast about is music. There’s just something within its tones that speaks to us on a level I’ve come to think is more than biochemical responses.
In music we tell stories, we speak of our loss, pain, joys, and triumphs. We tell our story and lay bare the emotions intertwined within it. We speak of things that mere words fail to in a given conversation. Through music we connect and find community. We drink and find joy in the company of others. We dance and sing, chasing away our sorrows. We become whole.
All of these things speak of something deeper. As if the melody fills a part of us that we can’t on our own, as if we were wired for it. Perhaps on a level some might consider spiritual in nature. That our deepest part, our innermost being, is responding to something transcendent.
As I sit here, I can think of so many songs that have helped me through some pretty tough times. Moments that spoke to my circumstances and helped me find an anchor. I’m sure many of you can relate. Perhaps it’s nothing, but from my own experience, it’s difficult to think of it in terms of endorphins or simple external stimuli. I think there is ‘more’ behind the tones.
My personal tastes vary. Sometimes it’s mood based. Others it’s just a random shuffle of a few hundred songs. Many times though, like when I’m dealing with difficult moments, that random shuffle has seemed to play the thing I needed to hear most. It’s like something reached in and said, “It’s going to be okay.”
I remember seeing a video a long while back. I can’t remember the band’s name, but they did a special concert for people who suffered from depression. After the concert, interviews were done with some of the audience. They spoke of their struggles and things they were fighting with.
Written on the face of every person was this expression of gratitude as if some part of them had been healed deep inside. It was pretty profound for me. Seeing their faces, their tears and the sense of relief that they weren’t alone was pretty amazing.
So, with the question still lingering…Why does music hit us so hard and affect us so powerfully? I think it’s because, for us, music serves a purpose, and fills a void. I think because it’s definitely a spiritual thing. I think it was a gift woven into us. Not going semantics of personal beliefs, but I think that we were wired for it. While it can be entertaining, it can also motivate, heal and give hope. It brings us together in a way that few things do. It touches our souls and for a while, makes us forget the cruelties of this world. It is us, and part of who we are as a people and species. Perhaps even, in some crazy way, music sets us free.