I was sorting out my iTunes playlist a couple of months back (a 16GB iPhone forces a music junkie to make markedly tough choices on the music you wish to retain on-the-go), when I noticed a rather peculiar pattern amongst several songs in my ‘Top 25 Most Played’ playlist.
Many of these songs possess a particular structure, typically opening with a mellow and melodic tone on a single instrument accompanied by smooth vocals, followed by the intricate layering of tones gradually adding to its overall sound. The drums would sieve itself in, providing light flourishes to the song on the cymbals with the steady kick-drum as the song’s newly introduced anchor and supported by a simple yet grounding bass pattern. Once the build-up has reached its peak, the drums would burst out into an impassioned beat, driving the song up to a climatic outro with exploding intensity at full force. Think Coldplay’s “Fix You”, Mumford & Sons’ “Awake My Soul”, or The National’s “Start A War” and hopefully you’ll get what I mean.
Yes, it’s that brand of songs which make you feel like a wandering soul embarking on a thrilling journey, and of course, completing it victoriously – all in the space of four exhilarating minutes. The roller coaster of emotions that this particular type of music conveys is perhaps the one addictive factor that makes it so excruciatingly appealing to me – the euphonious lows at the beginning, brimming with potential, and the enthralling highs that take you over the moon. These are the songs that keep me inspired and lift my spirits, even at the times when I don’t realise that I need it.
When having conversations with new people I meet and the topic of music preferences arises, I dish out the usual answers – blues, funk, indie folk, modern rock and all that good stuff. In short, a little of everything (which is true). Why I don’t raise this particular ‘style’ of music is because I see it as such a weird concept that I don’t expect others to understand it. Maybe most of you readers don’t as well, despite having read this far.
In light of that thought, what I’ve grown to realise is that perhaps this is the whole point of music, that maybe we’re not meant to fully grasp it in the first place. I have personally settled for the belief that music preferences and tastes are a rather profound thing altogether – you may never understand why that neighbour next door won’t stop playing that Dave Matthews Band record at top volume all day, and neither will he understand your fascination for heavy metal with its distinctive aggressiveness and propulsive energy.
And for me, I see that as a beautiful thing. Discovering the music that speaks to you in your own unique way is quite a special experience in itself. It can work in the way that you personally relate to the lyrics, or simply the music in its raw, authentic form that is somehow able to magically connect with you and you alone, regardless of the words that accompany it.
I think that the inspiring element in the music we love is perhaps the greatest indicator of why it is so intrinsically valuable to each of us. The first time I heard The Airborne Toxic Event’s “The Fifth Day” was so mind-blowing, especially as the song progressed into the outro and exploded into a myriad of colorful melodies and sounds in scintillating fashion. I feel my spirits lifted every time the song comes up on my playlist. It’s one of those things that simply ‘does it’ for me. Maybe it’s just another song to you, but if it is, I’m still glad because I think that’s the whole point that I’ve been trying to make here.
We all have music that appeals to us in a personal way – it might be a certain genre or just a certain style (like myself). Identify it, dive deeper, and I believe that we will chance upon even more inspiration and beauty in music just when you think that there isn’t any more of it left to find.