Sometimes words just don’t get to the core of what we want to express. We might fumble, get frustrated or simply find ourselves speechless. “How am I supposed to say this?,” we might think. And then it dawns on us, “Ah-ha! With music.” Instrumental music can lift us out of wordy worlds and into an ethereal realm of harmony and social resonance. There is no need to filter music through the executive regions of the brain, it simply hits you right at the heart. A fairly well known example of this is Erik Satie’s “Gymnopédies No. 1.” An elegant and somber piece that transports us to a hazy, uncrystallized space in our memories, often utilized in film to create a sense of nostalgia.
Outside of humans, the world naturally conveys to us instrumentally. It lets you know that there’s a river just over the hill, that someone is walking closely behind you and that those squirrels are at it again. The earth is a grand instrumental fabric that slowly shifts and undulates weaving us through its ever-evolving melodies. Music was born out of early human’s sensitivity to sounds of the earth and what they were communicating. Earth’s music is inherently social and invites all creatures and sonic emitters to join in concert. Walking near a swamp at mid-morning is like stepping into some sort of Okefenokee Opera. Scores of insects and other day-walkers are greeting the day with their songs. Over time, I imagine that bits of cricket chatter, snippets of birdsong, the distant howling of wolves, and other mellifluous sounds fused in the human brain as a concordant combination and dazzled the naive intellects of our prehistoric ancestors.
Even when speaking, there is nearly always something more primordial being implied by the tone of voice. This is the emotion of the body, the neurophysiological state and/or relationship we have to those words in that moment. Yet without the need for any critical analysis, instrumental music instantly connects to our middle brain, the limbic system, and the currents of emotion are engaged. Many of us often use music to imbue a desired feeling or to expand upon one already being felt. I regularly choose music this way and almost like magic, the notes promptly lavish my soul in a wash of fitting fervor. When a DJ connects with her or his audience, they are musically empathizing and shifting with the collective group.
Like the earth’s grand concert, we often use music to engage each other at a deeper level, a level we intuitively know that only music will reach. If we want to bring people together around big ideas and social causes, we frequently rely on music to unify us. Our external differences are checked at the entrances and our hearts proceed toward the music and the movement. It is our worldwide sanctuary of trust and shared experience, where safety and resilience merge to become greater than the sum of its parts.
As the world’s citizens come to know each other all the more, it feels like now is the time to let music help us find love – a common human bond that has no shape, form or identity – just a permeating feeling of harmonized connection. I wish for this idea to overcome us, for us to drop down our guards and let the music guide us to the lights of each other. It may sound naive or simplistic, yet I cannot fully explain why I know that this is possible. And this is where music comes in… to play….
The evolution of music and human social capability – Jay Schulkin, Greta B. Raglan
Erik Satie’s “Gymnopedies No. 1”
A lovely and evocative piece “First Dream Called Ocean” by Helios, from the album, Eingya