Hey, everyone! Man, can you believe we are almost halfway through the year alreadyiREALLYdonotlikesmalltalk. Let’s talk about emotions instead, shall we? Get really deep into some heaviness going into the weekend!
There is an amazing podcast I listen to called Invisibilia. I find myself anxiously waiting for the next episode every time, and since they only post during the summers, I get even MORE excited when they announce a new season. Basically, it’s a show discussing the hidden forces of human behavior, such as our beliefs, ideas from culture and science, and they just started season 3 two days ago with a two part episode about emotions.
I loved the episode because the big theme of part 1 was that emotions are a human/culture concept, and are not actually hard-wired into our systems like we have believed (there’s a captivating story told through this theme, but you should go listen to it than me explaining it). Basically, you learn about emotions through your parents and the culture around you; maybe even Mr. Rogers, if you were lucky enough to grow up with him (he actually sums up this idea so well). You watch what goes on around you and based on what you’ve seen and experienced, your brain makes predictions on how to act. It works exactly the same way as vision: When we are born, we only see light and dark. It’s only by our brains developing concepts of what things look like that we can see anything. So our emotions are very much the same, with concepts our brain created to associate with four core reactions: pleasantness, unpleasantness, arousal (high-energy), and calmness (low-energy). “Our concepts make the world you see.” And basically, it means that we, as humans, have control of our emotions; Not necessarily what we feel (cause you can’t help what you feel and how you grew up), but HOW we feel.
Now, there are some huge discussions to be had on all of this…However, I am going to focus on what I learned from this and apply it to music (Typical musician, right? Again, go listen to the podcast for a much better, detailed explanation). One of the things I enjoy most about music is how it connects to people and the different emotions each individual has when listening to music. My brother, for example, is a huge fan of music like metal, prog rock, and punk. While I also like these genres, I don’t love them like he does, and I definitely don’t have the same emotional reaction to that genre like he can. Same with me having a huge passion for pop/classical music. He may like it as well, but I will feel totally different when listening to Rachmaninoff’s Romance Op6 No. 1 than he will. While emotions may be concepts humans and cultures have created, artforms like music are a way that not only the artist can express how they feel, but that we can all feel and connect with while experiencing totally different outcomes. Whether you feel happy or sad, angry, fearful, or disgusting (you were just DYING to see how I would reference the Inside Out picture, weren’t you?), Rachmaninoff can meet you in that emotion. So can Beyonce, Kendrick Lamar, Claude Debussy, and even myself.
I create a lot of improvised music based on what I’m sensing in the venue I’m playing. The best part, though, is the stories and emotions people tell me after hearing me play. I played a piece in a senior home and one of the ladies listening said it made her melancholy because it reminded her of her husband, who died a few years ago. In that same home, another woman said it made her angry because she always wanted to learn violin but with arthritic hands, she could no longer try. In the airport, a man walked by frustrated by his delay and heard me play and felt like I knew his exact situation and it calmed him; he stayed to listen for the three hours he had to wait. I once played a cover of Pure Imagination from Willy Wonka and it reminded a man of his childhood; growing up, watching the movie. He said it brought up great memories of happiness for him.
So, I guess what I’m getting at is aren’t these human creations called ’emotions’ lovely things too? Isn’t it great to know that someone can feel totally different listening to a song and yet we can share in the act of listening of music with said person? I feel like, as a musician, I have a rare opportunity to bring these different people together communally through the music that I play and that now, in a world where these emotional concepts are controlling our every decision (more often for the worst), we need to see that we still share in all of this together…now more than ever. Most importantly, that we can’t begin to understand each other until we understand how each other FEELS the world around them. I hope to do well in this opportunity.
If you want to be part of this opportunity with me and start trying to understand one another a little better, come out to see a show of mine!! I’m playing in quite a lot of things over the summer so far, and I would love to see you at one of them. 🙂 Just check out the shows section of this website to see all that I’m doing and see if it works in your schedule to come and experience the emotions of music with me. Love you all, with every concept of the meaning (except maybe the bad forms of love…good vibes only).