I understand and enjoy music in a different way than most of the other people I know. I have never been able to identify exactly why I feel the way I do after hearing certain songs, but I can still do my best to harness it and try to create the same reactions in others who hear my music.
Most people I know feel an emotional connection to the lyrics of the song and the emotions the vocalist sends out when he / she sings. From what I understand from other people’s accounts, someone who just went through a breakup will feel very emotional when listening to a song with lyrical content about a breakup. Likewise, someone in love will feel emotional about a song with lyrics detailing their feelings.
I was never able to connect with music this way, even when I tried. The way I identify with music and connect with the artist is vastly different than the average listener. I connect with music based on the art of the music itself. Quite frankly, lyrics are relatively unimportant to me. As long as they aren’t downright stupid or offensive to me, they don’t matter at all when I make the decision of buying a song for my music library or not. Of course there are a few exceptions where I appreciate the lyrical mastery to a song, but even my emotional connection to these songs aren’t based primarily on the lyrics.
I don’t connect with the lyrics. I connect with the music. I connect with the melody, the chords, the layers of harmony, and the production as a whole. I’ve written the lyrics for a few songs but it’s not my favorite thing to do. I don’t mind doing it because I know I’m decent at writing lyrics, but if I can outsource lyrics to a specialist who does it better than me, I will. The main reason I write lyrics for most of my own songs is because I need the vocal melody I composed to be respected and adhered to. If I found another lyricist who would write to my melody, I would let them do it almost every time. That would allow me to write the part I feel passionate about, and let someone else put the part they feel passionate about into the lyrics. This way, my songs would be great from every angle.
So based on what I’ve said so far, why don’t I only listen to instrumental music? There are certain vocalists I really love. But it’s not because of the words they sing, it is because of the musical quality of their voice. Certain vocal styles really appeal to me, and I still believe a human voice plays an important role in music. However, because I feel myself less emotionally connected to the lyrics, I can enjoy music in many different languages, even if I don’t understand the language myself.
However, despite the fact that I think I feel differently about music than most of the people on Earth, I wouldn’t change it if I was given the chance. I believe experiencing music this way provides a much deeper and much more emotionally invested connection than the relatively literal way most others experience it.
Lyrics can help enhance the feelings you have on the surface at that instance in time. But as a great guitarist and a friend of mine pointed out to me, melody can take you to new places. When I hear a certain melody, it can take me back to my childhood, and remind me of the things I love doing and the people I love doing them with. This can sometimes give me the fuel I need to push through a project and finish it, and really enjoy it in the process. The greatest emotion I feel from music is nostalgia.
Quite frankly, I loved every aspect of my childhood. My family, my friends, the hobbies I spent time doing, the music I listened to, the games I played, the place I lived, and the vacations I took couldn’t have been more perfect. Even as an adult, each additional year added to my life gives me even more positive experiences to look back at and experience satisfaction from.
One of my core philosophies is that experiences are a better investment than possessions because the enjoyment remains long after it is physically gone. The board game I played with my family and best friend nine months ago, the game of street hockey I played with my neighbors, the video game I binged with my brother for hours on end, and the vacation I spent ten hours a day on the same ride all still play a part in my happiness. I’m still getting some satisfaction from all of it.
Each unique experience I make both with other people and on my own is an investment in my future well-being. And that’s one reason I listen to music as a background track quite frequently in my daily activities and like to listen to it both in the morning as I make my breakfast and at night before I sleep – not only to inspire my composition, but also to provide reference points for me to return to later on in life. And while I have noticed similar effects from other forms of art such as video games, music is one of the most powerful to me.
Yet, this doesn’t cover everything. If I only enjoyed music because of the nostalgic quality of it, I would only listen to the stuff I listened to as a kid, and I wouldn’t like any new music, and this simply isn’t the case. A lot of the time, I still feel an immediate emotional connection even when listening to a song for the first time.
My explanation for this is that music is a very fluid art. New sounds and melodies represent other sounds and melodies from before. Confusingly enough, it is not always the exact songs I heard as a kid that gives me this feeling of nostalgia. Sometimes it can be a song I am just hearing for the first time. But how is this possible?
Every now and then, I hear a brand new song and I just think “Yes! This is the type of music I love”. I believe I have an ear for certain forms of melodies and rhythms that was formed when I was younger. I grew up playing a lot of Japanese video games, so I have come to the conclusion that I am more predisposed to like those types of melodies. Specifically speaking, they are typically rigidly composed – that is, on time and in key. These traits also carry over to most of the other styles I listen to, such as metal and pop music. To me, those melodies are the ones that most frequently take me to a new place. As hard I try to enjoy new types of music like jazz, rap, R&B, etc., I just can’t enjoy it the same way. I can appreciate it but I can’t experience it the same way I can as the stuff I grew up with.
In conclusion, I like to compose the same types of music that make me feel the way I do about music. Although I don’t have it down completely yet, and I will never reach the perfect combination that is exactly what I want to hear, I believe there is some of the beauty and fun in making music that I will always have something more to try for. I believe in making music for myself, and letting other people react to that. Hopefully in the future, someone else will feel similar reactions from my compositions as I did from my favorite artists, and that is my ultimate goal as a songwriter.