I’ve always been a highly-sensitive yoke. Now by that I don’t necessarily mean I break down in tears if anyone says boo to me (although that certainly can happen on occasion). But I am a bit of a day-to-day general emo—it can be exhausting! Music brings out this hyper-sensitivity so when I hear a song, it affects me deeply. For those three minutes or so I really believe what I’m hearing and I take on the mood of the song. I’m the big eejit in the corner, taking every lyric of Toto’s Africa personally, beating my chest and imagining I’m running the length of the Serengeti.
Music, while made up of sound and skill, arrangements and unce unces, is essentially the expression of emotion. Okay, one may contradict and ask what emotions for example The Bloodhound Gang were expressing with their album Hooray for Boobies, (featuring the eponymous ‘Bad Touch’—that frankly terrifying ode to animalistic coupling) but whatever the musicians’ intentions, it would be difficult to argue that mood can ever be separated from music.
As Juslin and Sloboda posit in their book Music and Emotion: Theory and Research: ‘Some sort of emotional experience is probably the main reason behind most people’s engagement with music.’ They’ve written a big book on this stuff, and have cool ‘boffinesque’ names, so they obviously know what’s what.
I began to think about this recently, as listening to music while walking to work I felt my emotions dip and soar, dip and soar, like a premenstrual teenager on a trampoline.
‘We might still know sorrow but we got better days’
One minute I’m bouncing along with joy listening to Better Days by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, my heart swelling with compassion for my fellow man. Good God, I thought, the world is such a beautiful place filled with hope and love. Look at everyone, fair play to them. Off they go to work, trying their best to forge their way in this life. And look too, isn’t it great how the ducks in the canal skilfully wind their way around the rubbish, fantastic work little guys. We all have to wind our way around the rubbish to get where we want, great stuff, we’re in this together.
As I get a catch in my throat and my eyes fill with tears at the tender emotional crescendo I shout “ISN’T THE WORLD A STUNNING ORB?!” at a group of schoolchildren on scooters.
At this on comes by Spandau Ballet’s Gold . Suddenly my fellow man is all well and good but what I really care about is ME. I’m the man, I’m the boss, I’m Warren Beatty in Dick Tracy, I’m Jack Nicholson in The Departed. I’m strutting down the road, ducks long forgotten. At every ‘go’ at the end of the line ‘You’ve got the power so GO!’ I mentally punch the air and think, you can achieve what you want, everything’s in your reach, take it, taaake it.
And that’s not all.
Every time I listen to F.E.A.R by Ian Brown I walk with an affected cartoon-like swagger, singing the lyrics in my head with a strong Northern English accent and just feeling very cool.
With Morrissey I walk slowly and think deeply about the complexities of being a person. I look fondly at people in the street and think stuff like ‘I know pet, sure I’m the same, it’s not easy. I don’t know what I’m up to meself, sure we’ll sort it out’.
Well now, you have enough stuff on the internet taking up your time so I think I’ll finish up here.
I am going to go a bit mad and subvert the expectations of an article so I won’t be finishing this off tidily with a final thought or resolution.
*rollerskates through top floor window to Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time*
First published November 2013