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The power of music

How music crosses boundaries, borders, races and ages and connects us on a deeply human level.

music

One thing that connects humans anywhere in the world is our love of music.

Regardless of race, nation or culture, music moves us on a deep and unconscious level that is uniquely human.

I’ve never met or heard of anyone who doesn’t enjoy some form of music.

Granted our tastes vary but there’s something about the collection of a rhythm, a beat or a string that we all resonate with at the visceral level.

Nor is music a taste we are trained to like from birth, not from our parents or through the culture we belong to.

YouTube is awash with dancing toddlers and indeed 10-month-old babies who become emotional at their mother’s singing.

A 10-month-old is too young to have an emotional response to music from the culture she’s raised in so there is obviously something deeper at play.

Music has a magic to it.

It pushes you harder and gives you more energy when you exercise.

When I’m at the gym and do high-intensity training on the treadmill, I play dance music with a high beats per minute (BPM) tempo which helps me push through a gruelling workout.

During this time I have a heightened sense of elation due to a combination of feel-good hormones rushing through my blood and the euphoric and uplifting dance beats playing in my ears.

Music speaks to your soul.

During a period in life when you’re feeling down, perhaps after the loss of a loved one or after a particularly bad break up, some songs can feel like they’re written especially for you in that moment.

This is how music connects us and shows that our life experiences are seldom unique.

Music captures moments in time.

Songs remind us of certain moments, places, people and feelings.

A specific song or indeed an album of songs can take us back to that summer, that city or that person.

It’s why artists and bands are so revered because they play an important part of our childhood, adolescence and early adulthood.

We sometimes call these songs the soundtrack of our lives because they have a deep connection to people, places and things from the past.

Music tells us stories.  

When I listen to a song I want to understand the narrative behind the lyrics.

Some songs are nonsensical but for the ones that are about something, there’s a lot to be gleaned from why it was written.

One of the most powerful I’ve heard is the song Wires by the band Athlete.

Written by the band’s lead singer, it tells the story of his baby daughter who suffered a seizure after being born prematurely.

The song describes the scene in the hospital and his feelings of a situation that is perhaps one of the most difficult someone can face in a lifetime.

It’s a song about fear.

You got wires, goin’ in
You got wires, comin’ out of your skin
You got tears
Making tracks
I got tears
That are scared of the facts

But it’s ultimately a song of hope and overcoming.

First night of your life
Curled up on your own
Looking at you now
You would never know
I see it in your eyes
I see it in your eyes
You’ll be alright

Music connects us to our surroundings.

The day of writing this article I happened to be walking across Waterloo Bridge and after a particularly long winter, it seems spring is, slowly but surely, making an appearance.

I took a picture as the sun was setting not thinking that there has been a song written about this very moment.

It wasn’t until 30 minutes later did I realise the picture I had taken is what The Kinks sang about in their most famous song, Waterloo Sunset.

“As long as I gaze at Waterloo Sunset I am in paradise.”

Music changes your emotions.

It can bring you up when you’re feeling down, it can calm you when you need to rest and it can help you concentrate when you need to focus on the job at hand.

Classical music is known for its soothing and focus-enhancing benefits. Listen to some hip-hop or nu metal and feel the anger.

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Most people can’t name their favourite song. Understandably, they have far too many favourites from years gone by to be able to pick just one.

I can.

It’s Gimme Shelter by The Rolling Stones. The vocals, melody and guitar riff are a perfect mix and it reminds me of driving through Vietnam and Cambodia with the song on loop. It’s a song I never tire of.

Written in 1969 during a time of war and political unrest the song, to me at least, captures that era perfectly. And being where much of the action took place at the time I discovered the song only increased its pertinence.

As people get older they tend to listen to less music and when they do they generally stick with the music of their youth. Music is, after all, a generational thing.

As far as I can tell, the key to moving with the times is to embrace the music of the times.

That’s the power of music.

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