The moods of melody

October 26, 2008

I have four older siblings and was influenced in different ways by each of them. Music was handed down to me by each one, vicariously listening to the bands and records that each brother or sister brought into the house. I can’t say in the musically correct way that I like all types of music, but the styles I do love are a direct reflection of specific influences.

 I was blessed to have grown up just outside of New Orleans and the live music that could be experienced on any given night was always at my doorstep. Every Friday I searched the Lagniappe section of the newspaper to see who or what was on the schedule for the weekend. Often, big name artists would visit small intimate venues like Tipitina’s, Jimmy’s or the Maple Leaf bar, up close and personal. Playing music in a band taught me how to listen, and listen intently to the various parts of music, training my “inner” ear to engage my mind as I isolated each instrument, which made up parts of a well constructed whole. It’s how I listen to music to this day. Sometimes unconsciously relaxing and just letting the sounds go over me, and sometimes going deeper into the construction of the parts.

Sounds and especially melodies, can affect us in deeply emotional ways. Like a familiar smell which triggers certain physical and psychological responses, music is even deeper. A melody can moves us across the emotional spectrum at will, shaping our thoughts, and inspirations. Music has become an integral part of marketing, but in the last few years I’ve noticed that certain commercials have resurrected a certain time segment of music tracks in their productions. The 60’s and 70’s especially. Obviously targeting the now adult audience of those years. If they can cause us to associate a certain time period with the emotion that was attached to that era and at the same time marry their product with it, then we are hooked. But again, it’s an emotion that they are appealing to, and they do it with music.

 There is an untapped spiritual side to music that I am only just beginning to understand. Major and minor key melodies tend to affect us in major (happy) and minor (melancholy or bluesy) ways. It’s why some songs are sad regardless of the lyrical content. Music theory appears to be something of eternal nature, given to laws and constants that are just as concrete as physics in comparable ways. But just as the pilot of the plane needs not know how to do repairs and maintenance, so anyone who understands the basics of music can pilot the ship of emotion that music is. Robert Plant’s haunting melody “In the mood”, with it’s verse “i’m in the mood for a melody” could just as well be phrased, “I’m in the melody for the mood”.

Music. It surrounds us in many ways. Imagine a movie without music, or church without singing. For this reason Bach stated..

“the aim and final reason of all music, should be nothing else but the Glory of God and refreshment of the spirit”