Wednesday, February 15, 2017

How you can tell where people are at through music

How you can tell where people are at through music

In the Sellnow chapter on music, Susan Langer is said to contend that: " human beings have an innate need to symbolize in order to comprehend life experiences". She says that "unlike language which operates as a discursive symbol, music operates as a nondiscursive symbol". This means that it doesn't have words but it does have "significant forms that are felt as qualities. Whereas words communicate by representing conceptual content, music communicates by representing emotional content... Essentially music sounds the way feelings feel". This means that as we talked about in class today, music is a reflection of a feeling or experience. It is a symbolic form of expression in which the "virtual experience" or the lyrics interacts with the "virtual time" or music to create an "illusion of life" experience for listeners. To me this means that music not only represents real experiences, but also the ideas we have about experiences or any aspect of life.

Now think about the last song you listened to. Why did you listen to it? The last song that I looked up was last night when I was feeling down. I really needed some positive vibes so I turned on this song called Taste the feeling by some of my favorite youtube cover artists. The song is essentially a super positive high energy number done accapella by a group of six people. I listened to the song on repeat for almost an hour and just used it as background music to think to. It represented or symbolized an "illusion of life" experience for me. The idea that everything is ok and that there is reason to celebrate. It made the sound of that idea for me and so it was exactly what I needed.

Now how about you? Why did you listen to some of the music that you did recently? What ideas or illusions of life did you need represented? Remember that the word illusion of life here doesn't mean that the things you need to feel are lies and illusions, from what I understand what it means is that what you need to feel has to be can only be tapped into through a nondiscursive means or one that transcends words. As Sellnow quotes Rasmussen in the chapter: " Music as emotional communication is important,then, because it helps us make sense of 'stresses involved in living that defy linear discursive expression' ". In other words, music is a form of communication that taps into experiences and things that our words never could.

Now think about your life. What music have you listened to throughout your life? Have you noticed that you found yourself listening to one type of music more than another at one time of your life or another? Now think about why. What experience was it tapping into for you? In analyzing myself it seems to be fairly obvious. In times of heartbreak I have often listened to sad music that taps into the illusion or idea of sadness and heartbreak. However, at other times when girls have broken my heart/not been interested in me I have come home and just played this really intense music to process through it. The idea I may be tapping into is the more of the "intensity pattern" that sellnow refers to which I possibly need to help project me/give me momentum into the future. In times of my life when I am experiencing a lot of fear and uncertainty I turn on my favorite christian music with its intensity pattern to help me get psyched to overcome the odds.

But help me understand here. Are there any exceptions where this might not apply. Is music always a reflection of what we are feeling or something we need to feel? For example I have two really cheerful friends who really enjoy listening to rather melancholy music? Why is that? Is that an exception to rule?

I realize that I have asked a lot of questions here and I would be open to hearing your thoughts on any of them but the main thing I want you to do is to analyze yourself using the questions I posed earlier. What do you listen to and why? Is it a reflection of something you feel or need to feel? and finally, has it changed throughout your life based on where you were at in life?


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I think that music is definitely a reflection of what we are feeling or what we would like to feel. For example, when I'm sad and I want to dwell in my sadness, I listen to sad music. But when I'm sad and want to uplift myself, then I listen to uplifting/happy music and hope that it gets me there.

    Aside from being a reflection of what we are currently feeling or what we would like to feel in the near future, I think music also helps us connect to a past feeling or emotion. For example, my current emotion could be happiness/joy but then a song comes on reminding me of an ex-boyfriend and I begin to cry. Yes, I am currently sad but that was brought on by the song itself and the memories linked to that song, but not my previous emotional state.

    1. yeah for sure. I hadn't given any thought to how it can trigger past emotions. solid point