Written By Julia DuBois

To yearn, or to pine, it happens to the best of us from time to time. This natural emotion of longing for someone, something, or somewhere, does not discriminate; we can all fall victim to it. When it comes time to express this complex emotion, choosing a creative platform is sometimes the best option for conveying the realities of what we are going through, and what is more creative than music?

Music allows us to reflect on some of our deepest emotions, especially when they are complicated. Yearning is in no way a simple or straightforward emotion, but instead consists of nuanced feelings that combine elements of both hope and loneliness. Since a wide variety of different factors go into musical composition, it creates an optimal opportunity for conveying these otherwise difficult feelings. Communicating the emotion of yearning may be a highly personal experience, but can also be so touching and relatable for so many people. 

The relatability of yearning is one of the reasons why so many artists choose to express themselves through the form of music. Their songs can reach a wide audience of people who are experiencing the same feelings of desire. There is a sense of comfort that comes from knowing we are not alone in our wants for something else or something different. We find solace in the fact that others share these difficult and occasionally uncomfortable thoughts, so we validate our own feelings through others’ experiences with them as well. Also, professional musicians who are usually well versed in song writing and expression through lyrics, have the ability to put the intricate attitudes towards yearning into words that many listeners lack. The artists are able to communicate what it actually feels like to be in a state of yearning and longing. 

Since the emotion of yearning consists of aspects from a diverse range of emotions, there is a unique opportunity for musicians from all genres to create music that expresses yearning. Unlike music that portrays basic emotions such as happy and sad that follow similar composition patterns, such as chord progressions, specific melodies, or pacing, any style of song has the ability to communicate yearning. Oftentimes, however, these songs have a similar feel because of their combined elements of musical composition. They can consist of a variety of loudness, speed, or forte all in one singular song. 

Take the two songs “I’d Like to Walk Around in Your Mind” by Vashti Bunyan and “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore” by Lucy Dacus as an example. The first one is simple and soft, but with a quicker pace. It consists of only vocals, an acoustic guitar, and background strings. The pleasant lyrics express a yearning to be closer with someone and a hope to understand them better. When all of these elements come together, it is not necessarily happy or sad, but in fact more complex than that. The second song is heavier, faster, and louder. She describes through her lyrics how she is yearning to be perceived as a different version of herself. There are feelings of being unsatisfied and impatient, while also longing for a different lifestyle. Although these two songs are very different from one another, they communicate these shared experiences and emotions of yearning.

Yearning is not an emotion to shy away from. Whether you like your music on the heavier or softer side, there is a song out there for you to turn to in order to find solidarity in your complex and shared set of pining emotions.

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