When someone asks me what defines me as a person, I always say music. Music and art are ingrained in my roots. My grandfather is a distinguished artist in Russia. He just retired at age 80 from teaching and performing accordion. My mother is a painter. I’m surrounded by her art in my home. My father is a movie producer, developing political documentaries about Québec—a bit of a dry topic, but he’s a creative soul. As for me, well I’m a combination of all these—I spend most of my time singing, but I’ve tackled much more. In the last year, I’ve started writing songs. In doing so, for the first time in my life, I’ve felt connected with my emotions, and I am in love with what I write.
Although not everyone has this kind of relationship with music, it still plays a very important and powerful role in each of our lives. As I’m writing this, I’m listening to my “Morning Commute” playlist on Spotify—even though it’s ten o’clock at night. Whenever I get a chance, I listen to music. It keeps me going every day.
However, as they say, to each their own. To another person, music might mean something different. Music genres alone demonstrate the great diversity we have in our specific tastes and cultures. Classical music, if I’m being honest, isn’t my first choice. However, I know many people that can’t listen to anything but Bach, Chopin, and Shubert. No matter what genre, style, or song you’re listening to, music will undoubtedly provide you refuge and solace.
So, why is it that music has such a profound effect on us?
Music ascribes the emotions we feel to a certain string of words and melodies. It reminds us that we are not alone. It brightens our mood, clears our mind, and allows us to appreciate different aspects of life. Music is a recognition and celebration of artists who have given their heart and soul to the artform; connecting people, solidifying friendships, building communities, and defining cultures. Music is powerful because it allows us to escape the difficult and unpleasant parts of our life from time to time.
It’s one thing to listen to “Itsy Bitsy Spider” as a three-year-old child, but it’s another to be a young adult, going through what seems like a mid-life crisis, with so many decisions in front of you and changes on the horizon, and hearing your struggles coming from someone else’s lips, articulated in a moving song.
Although listening to music passively is great, it’s important to take the time to sit with your favourite songs one-on-one.
What have you missed? What is the artist trying to say? What are the colours of notes and chords trying to tell you? But also, it is important to step outside your comfort zone and listen to a new genre, artist, or a specific decade of music.
I recently got into country music. It’s probably just a phase, but this genre has really changed my outlook on many things in my life. It’s helped me lead a simpler life (listen to Chris Stapleton, and you will understand).
Also, keep in mind that listening to a song once isn’t enough to know if it speaks to you. I’ve often made the mistake of hearing a song and right away saying “this isn’t for me.” However, upon hearing it another time I would realize that I’d missed a really important message
This happened to me with the artist XXXTentation. When I first heard his music, I wasn’t hooked. After his assassination in 2018, I gave it another listen and I cried. His songs speak to themes that hit so close to home for me.
It’s important to ask ourselves why we listen to the music we do. These questions allow for greater self-realization and awareness of the human condition, and lend to our understanding of the other.