ode to music

Exam season is dragging by, and there are only so many remedies to the stress it brings. Recently, my taste in music has been revitalized and revamped, thanks to a few good friends of mine.

It still amazes me how drastically my tastes have evolved throughout my life; from Hannah Montana to One Direction to my emo middle school @$$ and now this electronic/indie/pop/R&B/Jazz conglomeration, I’ve always felt so connected to what I’ve listened to.

Music can help put you into a mood or help pull you out of one. Whether it be an upbeat song to get you ready for the day or a sad song to make the atmosphere sympathize with your emotions, music has the power to play on our heart strings in a way that speaking cannot. Language in itself holds amazing power; as Mark Pagel once said in a Ted Talk on language, it miraculously “allows you to implant a thought from your mind directly into someone else’s mind… without having to perform surgery.” Music takes that one, grand, leaping step forward by adding even more emotion and tone to the message.

TedTalk: Mark Pagel – How Language Transformed Humanity (2011)

Music is highly appreciated by the masses, but it is the how factor that not many consider.

Each song strikes a chord in the hearts of its audience and miraculously translates sound waves and beats into a universal language that communicates emotion. There are billions, possibly trillions of songs in history, whether it be a full and published piece that has received notoriety or a small ad-libbed hum that has been forgotten.

What’s even more fascinating is the theory behind music. Most pop music today incorporate the same handful of chord progressions, just in different keys and tempos, and with different instruments. Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing, Adele’s Someone Like You, and Avril Lavigne’s Girlfriend all follow the same I-V-vi-IV chord pattern, but remain distinctively separate from each other! With the same primitive structure, entirely different songs can be crafted with unique lyrics, sounds, and moods. And that’s just the surface of Music Theory; inverted chords, vibrato, and key changes also add flavor to songs, but there is so much more to music and how it pleases the ear.

Hook Theory’s chord progression search

Held close to the core of culture, music carries an expressive history intertwined in each ethnic groups past. Mariachi, Kpop, Swahili, Flamenco, and even ancient war chants serve as a nation’s own genre of music. Even within that, there are more sub-genres.

Being Filipino, I grew up around a culture that DEEPLY appreciates music, especially power ballads. In fact, a staple trait of a filipino party is loud karaoke right after a Pacquiao fight.

To this day, my dad still jams out via karaoke weekly. Bakit Ngayon Ka Lang by Freestyle is one of his go-to songs.

Music is integral to Filipino culture because it creates a bonding activity between family and friends. It doesn’t matter if you sing like Beyoncé or, as Simon Cowell once said to a contestant, “like a cat in a vacuum cleaner.” The non-exclusive environment is arguably the most accepting and affirming atmospheres you could possibly sing amateurishly in.

Interestingly, music creates an ambience of nostalgia; a few sounds in just the right order and tempo shifts the moments mood to one that is directly associated with a memory. A couple’s wedding song or a break up song, but of course, it differs between people. For example, I may hear Bakit Ngayon Ka Lang and think of my dad jamming out at every Filipino party I’ve been to, but someone else may just hear a foreign song. (Related: The Role of Music in Human Culture, Vikas Shah / 2015)

Music is the world’s universal language; it doesn’t take more than 30 seconds into a song to figure out the mood of a song, regardless of which language it’s in. It’s fascinating, and it’s intimate, and it’s diverse. Music best represents the thoughts of the world through the expanse of history, and it expresses it through catchy, repetitive sounds. The best part, I think, is that it never tarnishes. Songs can impact the world long after the artist has passed; they become invaluable relics of human thought in history. The legacies of Michael Jackson and Ludwig van Beethoven’s works remain though they’ve passed on, and the dear childhood anthem we all learned on the recorder in grade school, Hot Cross Buns, will forever be timeless as well.


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