With these nice thoughts about music in our lives, the Wellbe team wishes you Happy New Year and pleasant holidays!

Music is of central importance to most of us, but we’re extremely picky not just about what music we listen to, but also about when we do so. At a given point, we really want to listen to a Bach cantata, at another it’s got to be the Supremes; one evening, a song by Robbie Williams keeps calling for us, on a second evening, we’re impatient to hear a particular Mozart aria. Why do these different modulations of sounds (sometimes combined with a few words) seem so important to us at specific moments, and not so much at others?

To understand why, we need to take note of a peculiar, but crucial, fact about ourselves. We are highly emotional beings, but – strikingly – not all of our emotions make their way fully and properly to the front of our conscious attention when they need to. There’s too much noise both externally and internally: we’re under pressure at work; there’s a lot to be done at home; the news is on, we’re catching up with friends.

Yet in the background, we may be storing up the ingredients for a range of profound and potentially very important emotions: the raw matter for grief, sorrow, a sense of tender generosity towards humanity in general, a quiet sense of the beauty of modesty or pity for ourselves – for all the errors we didn’t mean to make, all the ways we’ve wasted our own best potential and didn’t properly return love when it was offered… These feelings exist as confused, weak signals in us – hardly noticeable, easily disregarded, blips of sensation, raw matter that has not been catalysed. And so the beauty, goodness, consolation and strength they could bring us never quite emerges; we bear within us a legacy of unfelt feeling.

This is why music matters: it offers amplification and encouragement.

Euphoric song amplifies the faint, but ecstatic feeling that we could love everyone and find true delight in being alive; things that felt out of reach seem nearer; there’s so much that could be achieved.

Day to day, these feelings exist, but are buried by the pressure to be limited, cautious and reserved. Now the song pushes them forward and gives them confidence; it provides the space in which they can grow; and given this encouragement, we can – as we should – take them more seriously and give them a bigger place in our lives.

We’re constantly faced with situations where something significant is going on; at the back of our minds the helpful emotional reaction is there – but it’s subdued and drowned out by the ambient noise of existence.

Music is the opposite of noise: the cure for noise. By finding the right piece of music at the right time we’re adding an accompanying score that highlights the emotions we should be feeling more strongly – and allows our own best reactions to be more prominent and secure. We end up feeling the emotions that are our due. We live according to what we are actually feeling.

From the Book of Life

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