There’s so much science out there that tries to explain why music can make us laugh, cry, dance, scream, and make every tiny hair on our bodies stand up as if they’re cheering for an encore from their favorite band.
“The only truth is music.” ― Jack Kerouac
Truth is what it’s about, isn’t it? When we have those moments of absolute truth, you know, the ones we seldom share with anyone ever? The real good stuff we keep for ourselves. Our emotions guide us because they’re in their purest, most honest incarnation. Music does this, whether we realize it or not.
Have you ever noticed there are certain songs that just “do it” for you? Maybe they’re not even your favorite songs in the truest sense of the word. Perhaps they’re not even from your most beloved artists. That’s the thing about music though…it’s shrouded in mystery only our subconscious can understand. It’s like most complex part of our brain sharing a whiskey with our soul in some dark room, filled with sounds from a jukebox going off in the distance, discussing this like only they can.
Is it the soft, melodic intro? Maybe it’s the bombastic guitar riff kicking off the verse. Sometimes it’s the growing energy of the pre-chorus. More often than not it turns out to be the bigness and epic howl of the chorus. The lyrics? Yes, those words you so strongly relate to that have you convinced the songwriter had you in mind the entire time the pen was hitting the paper.
We look for explanations for almost everything in life. It’s the curiosity of human nature that keeps the mind wondering and wandering. We live in an age where anything we want to know and consume is literally at our fingertips. We have it all in terms of information, ignorance is now a choice.
Music though…it’s been around forever and yet no one can come up with a good enough reason to satisfy why it’s so essential to us. There are countless studies and articles that delve deep into the topic and provide valuable information. Yes, there’s a science to it. Brain chemistry and biology play a role. Psychology, nature, nurture, and education have their parts as well. None of it though…an explanation.
“Music is … A higher revelation than all Wisdom & Philosophy” ― Ludwig van Beethoven
This may come across as a love letter to all that music is and does, and that’s fair. It’s more than that though. It’s also an invitation to think about and discuss why we all (at least the people still reading this anyway) love music the way we do and why it’s so difficult to explain why. Sure, we have ideas and thoughts as to why, but can anyone nail it down? Or better yet, can you safely give an answer and never amend or add to it? Probably not.
The title of this piece contains the word “mayhem” and I haven’t addressed that aspect yet. Melody has been covered since it’s always associated with music and it’s what most people remember about their favorite songs. But why “mayhem”?
Mayhem — a state of rowdy disorder
This is one of the official definitions of the word and it’s the one I relate to the most when using it in the title. Music is disorder and can certainly be rowdy. Music changes how you think and feel, it creates worlds beyond what’s currently outside your window. It allows you to rearrange what you see.
When experiencing live music, the opportunity for it to get rowdy is always just a note away. Obviously, some genres are nothing but rowdy and they exist so you can let loose. Even the ones that aren’t though have the ability to get you agitated and ready for anything at a moment’s notice. Science can try all it wants but to define this completely is an exercise in futility.
“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” ― Plato
So, as this love letter comes to a close, I will leave you with a plan…some homework if you will. Find some quiet time, grab some headphones, pick some of your favorite music (preferably on vinyl if you have) from throughout your life, and sit down and listen. Really listen…every note, melody, chorus, groove, beat, lyric, instrument, and so on, and allow whatever emotions are conjured up to stay with you for as long as possible. This is what science cannot explain. This is the magic of music. We have taken so much from music for so long, let’s give something back by giving in to all it has provided for us.
“I’m just a musical prostitute, my dear.” ― Freddie Mercury