Written by Julia DuBois
Emotions are complex, dynamic, fluid, and a vital aspect of the human experience. Communication, funny enough, is also complex, dynamic, fluid, and a vital aspect of the human experience. When the two come together, they create the opportunity for a highly personal and expressive message. Sometimes, however, the delivery of these expressive messages is where the main challenge of communication lies. Verbal conversations may feel too impromptu, but written words may feel too forced. Fortunately, there is another medium for communicating emotions that offers a platform for creative and authentic expression. That medium is music.
Music has been used as a means to communicate for a vast amount of time, and is still continuing to grow and advance as a communication tool. The nuances of music mirror the nuances of emotions, offering the opportunity to create a distinct and unique message. Through the different components of musical composition, such as written lyrics, tempo, key, genre, and more, the meaning of each song can be highly deliberate. With these conscious intentions in mind, an effective song can do more than just portray an emotion, but it can make the listener feel the emotion as well.
Experiencing the feeling that someone was trying to portray through a song is a key indicator that the message was communicated effectively. This is because the listener is not just hearing what the artist was intending, but instead receiving the emotions that place the listener in the same boat or state of mind. Whether the listener was already in this same state of mind and can relate to the music, or if they were instead influenced and moved into a new set of feelings, using music to express emotions can be a very powerful and impactful strategy for communication.
A common emotion that is communicated through music is the emotion of happiness. Being happy is a very straightforward and simple emotion that many of us aim to feel. The simple joys of having a good day, stumbling upon some good fortune, or spending time with the people you love are a few of the motivators that get artists to share their happiness through the form of song. As it has been said before, happiness is contagious, and music is an impactful way to spread that feeling to as many people as possible.
The lyrical composition of a song is usually a strong indicator of whether or not the music is truly expressing happiness. These happy songs are usually underlined with similar feelings and themes of motivation, empowerment, love, and reflection on positive memories. The lighthearted and carefree attitude of the artist is woven into every line and creates a cohesive optimistic outlook that is carried throughout the entirety of the track. Many artists are not sorry for feeling good, and their music reflects that.
Music, however, is so much more than just its lyrical composition. As previously mentioned, the different components of musical composition play a very large role in creating a feeling throughout a song. One major component of a song is its tempo, or pacing. A happy song is usually quick, upbeat, and consists of a fast-paced tempo. This pacing mimics the physiological effects of a human that are a result of truly feeling the emotion of happiness. When we are happy and excited, our heart rate increases, which in turn allows us to also feel upbeat. On a similar note, when humans are happy and excited, the pitch of their voice becomes higher. For example, imagine a high school girl who just met her favorite celebrity and is telling her friends all about her experience; the pitch of her voice can reach new and unimaginable heights. This occurs in music as well. The scale and pitch of the song that is full of positive emotions is commonly high to inhibit these same symptoms of feeling happy. When these different aspects of a song work alongside positive lyrics, there is a very high chance that it will sway an audience to feel happy with the artist.
One specific song that exemplifies these features is Mathew Wilder’s track, “Break My Stride.” This three minute song is positive and upbeat from start to finish. His high pitched voice and encouraging lyrics communicate his feelings of feeling good. With lyrics such as, “Ain’t nothin’ gonna break my stride, nobody gonna slow me down, oh no, I got to keep on moving…” he leaves his listeners with almost no other choice than to feel happy and motivated with him. So, to those of you who go on to listen to this song, good luck refraining from getting out of your seat to sing and dance along.