Emotions in music – Are they so innocent?

Emotions in music – Are they so innocent?

The way I feel about music has changed a lot over the last few years. More specifically, my perception of the way music feels has changed. I guess you could call it a development in awareness – where I began to really tune into the music I was listening to and in this process I started to become aware that there was a whole lot more coming with the music than I had bargained for.

What I felt was, it wasn’t just the actual notes, or the production, or the sound of the instruments, but there were other things contained in the music that I’d not really paid much attention to before, much less considered how they might be affecting me.

The other interesting thing is that I realised that the music I was listening to wasn’t just outside me, coming out of the speakers and staying there in the room, but that it was actually changing the way I was feeling.

I started to wonder what was happening – was I absorbing music? Was I ingesting it just like food?

If so, I started to realise my daily diet of music included:

  • much sadness
  • anger
  • fear and resentment
  • with some ‘happiness’ thrown in for dessert

Being a musician and having taught singing for quite a few years, I have listened to a great deal of music as it has been such a big part of my life, but suddenly I was realising that the music I was listening to wasn’t making me feel so great. This was difficult to swallow at first, but I could feel that there was definitely something in it and here I could feel a great opportunity to learn and grow.

I remember one instance when I truly 'got' this ...

I was browsing in a bookstore looking for a gift when a familiar song came on. I found that I was not only distracted by it, but also completely hooked into it – in fact, it felt like I couldn’t get away from it no matter how I moved around the store or tried to block it out. I then realised that the reason I was trying to escape the song was because I could feel that it was so sad. The sadness was coming through in so many different aspects of the song. It was in:

  • the artist’s voice
  • the melody
  • the music
  • the way the instruments were played
  • the lyrics of the song as well

It was a really interesting experience because I was feeling good and when this song came on, I instantly started feeling sad.

I realised from this experience the power that music has and how it can completely change the way we are feeling.

Up until this point I had been under the impression that an emotional song was good for me because it gave me something to relate to and I liked that. But now I was starting to question if this was some form of comfort for me that never allowed me to resolve the emotions and feel great. If anything, it seemed to just exaggerate them and make them more of a focus.

This was and continues to be an amazing breakthrough for me because I have realised what a trap it is and how it keeps me stuck in these emotions.

I will say I am now much more discerning about my daily diet of music and emotional music is not my music of choice anymore – which has been quite a significant change for me.

So now when I’m out somewhere and a song comes on, and I can feel it starting to affect the way I am feeling – what do I do?

I just do my best to observe the song, but not to ingest it; that is, to let the emotions stay out there at arm’s length and not take them on. But it does raise the question: why do we consume music that has the effect of making us feel heavy, anxious or emotional?

Becoming aware of how music affects the way I feel, just the way food does, has opened my eyes and my ears and has had an influence on what I now choose to listen to. It feels deeply honouring to discern the music I listen to – the same way I discern the food I put into my body.

Filed under

EmotionsAwarenessMusicEnergy in music

  • By Rachael Kane, Singer / Songwriter

    Rachael is a singer/songwriter and singing and expression teacher who is interested in the true health and well-being of people.

  • Photography: Clayton Lloyd