Have you ever really thought about how powerful music is? Music triggers an emotional response in most people. Never is this more evident when you have a group of people trying to agree on a station to listen to. People know what they like, what they don’t and they stick to their convictions. Recently my coworkers agreed to list to “summer hits of the 80’s” for our Friday station. I’m sure this was not ok with some people, but to keep the peace they didn’t say anything. The music played in the background as we all continued working. A new song would start and I could hear a gasp, or small squeal of excitement, remembering their old favorite. Out of the corner of my eye I would catch someone mouthing the words, humming along, or subtly moving to the beat. I could feel the mood of the room start to lighten. The stressors of the morning started to seem more manageable, there were more smiles and more laughter.
A song has the power to impact you in the moment, but it can also take you back to a specific time and place. The song can trigger details in your memory as if they happened yesterday. Any early song by Whitney Houston reminds me of my first concert at the Greek. It rained that day and the seats were still wet when we got there. Janet Jackson, Control was my first tape that I bought with my own money. The Jets and Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam take me back to my first over-night trips in Junior High where we listened on a boom box in our cabin. Songs from high school are too numerous to even try to narrow down. What’s fascinating to me is that hearing a few notes of the song takes you back to that place instantly. It’s almost as if you are there again, reliving each note and emotion you felt in that exact moment.
One college memory I was reminded of this week was the song “Friends in Low Places”. I never was a country music girl growing up in Los Angeles. But then I went to college in a town nicknamed “The Old Pueblo” and Garth Brooks was everywhere, so naturally I added country to my play list. Friends in Low Places was a song that my Fall ’92 sisters and I chose as “our” song. We were at a retreat, camped out in someone’s living room off campus laughing and singing for most of the night. Over the next 4 years any time the song was played, we’d look across the room, or bar, or party for each other, and start singing, bonded by the memories it represented. What we didn’t realize was that bond would stand the test of time. Though our visits are few and far between, when we do get together, it’s as if no time has passed at all.
My last thought about the power of music is how it seems to appear just when you need it most. About two months ago, I was having a really hard day. I walked out of the office frustrated and angry. I got in the car, started it up and “Happy” by Pharell Williams surrounded me in full stereo. I couldn’t help but crack a smile. I went about my errands and the irritation of the morning started to creep back in. After finishing up at the last store, I got back in the car and what do you know, a different station was playing “Happy”. Many people would write off hearing the song as a coincidence. It’s a popular song so it wasn’t really that surprising to come across it while you were in the car for any period of time. Or maybe the universe is trying to tell you something? It was as if I was being reminded that I couldn’t go back to work without letting it go and starting fresh.
My posts aren’t usually this long but when I started thinking about the POWER of music, I couldn’t just settle on one angle. So to recap:
- Music has the power to change your mood. Next time you are feeling down or angry or frustrated or sad, listen to an old favorite from long ago and I guarantee you’ll be in a better mood when you’re done.
- Music has the power to bond people for life. I talked about my college sisters, but could have told the similar stories about bus rides in Jr. High or the songs we listened to in our cars when we first got our licenses. Songs remind of us of the important people who helped us become who we are today.
- Music has the power to give us a message at the exact time we need it. The question is, are you paying attention?