What Is Music?

“An art of sound in time that expresses ideas and emotions insignificant forms through the elements of rhythm, melody, harmony, and colour

– Dictionary Definition of ‘Music

Music, to me, is many different things.

My first experience of music were the songs I heard on the radio as a child, and even then I saw the power music seemed to have over the human psyche. Family car journeys that started out tense due to some sort of family disagreement (usually us kids arguing or otherwise acting up) would quickly evaporate into singing and smiles after a few of our favourite songs had blared out of the speakers. Music can change your mood in an instant, and that is a powerful attribute in it’s own right.

My next experience of music was way more intense.

I really started to ‘get’ music and start forming my own taste when I met my best friend in primary school. He was a huge influence on me musically, and I soaked up all the different rock ‘n’ roll bands he used to introduce me to playing his old style records on a secondhand turntable in his box room. Those were great times. Hearing all that rich music gave me a taste for the world that, until that point, had lay relatively hidden from me. All these different tastes, styles and influences – so much to take in!

It was Jake who piqued my interest in becoming a musician back when I met him in primary school, and I remember begging him for two years to let me join his band, but to no avail. Alas, they had all the members they needed and I was surplus to requirements (I couldn’t even play an instrument at the time, but I planned on figuring that out once I’d got a place in the band). That changed when we all went our separate ways to secondary school, which resulted in half of the band going to one school and the other half another. This was inconvenient for rehearsals, as these usually took place during school time, and so they band split. That was my opportunity! Hence, my first band was born in a dingy practise room in the depths of the Meole Brace School music department (Meole Brace Science College these days).

Writing and playing music in a band was a completely different experience to sitting in my mate’s room listening to an LP on a record player. The sheer energy and emotion behind the live music were the most intense and surreal feelings I had ever experienced at that point in my life. It was like the notes flowed through me, connecting me with my voice in a way I had never experienced before; I remember feeling almost naked when I used to sing, because writing lyrics was like taking my heart out of my chest and putting it on display for all to see. It was such as emotive experience, and so totally powerful.

Writing was something else again. The best way I have come up with to describe the writing process for me is that I don’t actually write the songs; they’re already written. All I have to do is enter my flow state and pull the different pieces from the ether before piecing them back together in the rehearsal room. Now, that may sound a little crazy to some of you if you’re never had this sort of experience, but this is the best way I can describe to you the way it feels for me. It was like channeling a special sort of energy that gave me access to a realm of limitless creativity, multiple perspectives and hyper-connectivity. It was, and still is for me, the purest form of flow I have ever experienced in my life. Standing on stage with a group of people you share that level of depth and connection with, pumping out your emotions in waves of sound that connect and morph in the air around you to create a magical charge of electrical energy in the room, is one of the most enchanting experiences I have had to this day. It is unlike any drug out there, or that I have experienced at least. That state takes you somewhere else – somewhere where ideas gain clarity and focus, connecting is all sorts of weird and wonderful ways, which allows you to see the world a little differently from others; it adds a special kind of perspective.

It’s so easy to get lost in that energy.

Music is also a time capsule. Who hasn’t been driving along when a song they haven’t heard in years randomly comes on the radio and before you know it you’re swept back 10 years into your past to an experience you remember like it was yesterday? You can smell the smells, hears the sounds and feel the sensations of your memory as if it were happening all over again. It can be a surreal experience, and I think it’s amazing how a simple song can trigger such a powerfully cognitive, and often physiological response as the nostalgia sweeps over you.

Songs that hold deep meaning for us at any given time have amazing power to lock potent experiences into your memory for later recall; the song the acting as the trigger at some point in the future.

Music is also, at it’s most basic level, sound. This may sound obvious, but bear with me.

With each passing day, scientists are discovering more and more about the power of sound and it’s potential effect on matter. We now know that we can use certain frequencies as destructive weapons by focusing beams of sound energy, it can be used to levitate physical objects and for brain wave entrainment through the use of Binaural Beats. Music and sound in general literally affect the oscillations of brain waves, so can be a useful tool in changing how we feel by having a direct physiological effect on our bodies. This is useful as a tool to help put you in a resourceful state and empower you with feelings of confidence so you can face the challenges of your day. It can also help you wind down after a long or stressful day at work – there is a piece of music for every state imaginable.

I had a laminated piece of card in the room for years when I was growing up that read ‘Music is medicine, it can cure anything’. Now, saying that it can cure anything is quite a lofty claim, as I’m sure you’ll agree, but it has certainly helped me through some pretty dismal times in my life, whilst also providing the soundtrack to my ebb and flow of my myriad experiences over the years. To this day there are songs that make the hairs stand up on the back of my neck when they come on the radio, and I have never lost my ability to tap into that pure state of flow that comes with writing and performing music live.

Music can be all things, and it can be whatever you need or want it to be. It can be hard or soft, fast or slow – these days we are lucky enough to access via the internet to pretty much anything we want, and music is a tool you just can’t afford to not have accompany you through life. It has powerful abilities as a state changer, and so is useful for this purpose alone.

For me, it is a form of expression so deep and powerful that I feel I am ripping open my chest and baring my soul to the world when I write and perform. It is the purest form of communication I know of, and one that transcends geography, culture and differences. It is form of communication that transcends language, communicating thoughts and feelings on so many different levels that it can only be felt and never described. Music is a vehicle for unity, understanding and connectivity. If you read between the lines, you will see an underlying emotional message lurking between the rhythm and rhyme – a message so potent that words are powerless to describe it. It is a vicarious rollercoaster ride of emotional experience that can make you laugh or cry.

Whether it’s uppers or downers you’re looking for, music has a pill for you…

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One thought on “What Is Music?

  1. Hello Jamie,

    Thank you for this excellent post detailing your understanding of, and involvement in, music! I shall have to return and read this post again when I am even more relaxed and clear-headed.

    We have yet another convergence or coincidence here: How we began our posts is uncannily similar! Yours is “Music, to me, is many different things.” and mine being “Music is a many-splendoured thing…”, as seen at https://soundeagle.wordpress.com/2013/03/10/soundeagle-in-soundcloud-art-music-and-compositions-about-new-sensations-love-life-country-nature-dreaming-meditation-and-spirituality/

    Happy March to you very soon!

    Liked by 1 person

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