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Music as emotions

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AUGUST 02, 2023

“Without music, life would be a mistake.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

Music is simply pleasing. Unlike other vices, there are very few downsides to consuming copious amounts of music. As long as you’re not physically damaging your ears with raw loudness or procrastinating on your homework, you can enjoy it as much as you’d like. Music is a blessing of life. The best things are truly free, or at least cost only a subscription to a streaming service.

Some savants and scientists have methodically explored aesthetics to understand why we enjoy music. There is science behind music, and indeed all art. After all, it’s all in our heads. Our brains respond to music, which is why we occasionally read those popular medicine articles about music and Alzheimer’s research.

But there’s more to it. Music continues to mystify us, even if it’s technically just releasing dopamine and feel-good hormones in our brains.

And one of the reasons for this mystique is music’s connection to emotion. Music doesn’t just sound good; it feels good. Certain music brings out certain emotions.

Music albums are an experience. They give the artist more time to capture those emotions that are often too complex for a single song.

The Divine Feminineby Mac Miller relates to all aspects of love, from the cute moments like binge watching Sopranos and cooking eggs with kale to the hardcore lust and rusty depictions of sex. Mac Miller captures all the beautiful emotions of a relationship, from the insecurity and need for validation to the euphoria and vulnerability we feel. And he does so musically.

Other connections don’t even make sense at first. I can’t listen to “Yeezus” without being reminded of high school. The album itself is chaotic and gritty. It’s an experimental electronic hip-hop album that deals with ego and self. But I bumped that record so much in 11th grade that I’m reminded of skateboards and physics class. Those are my emotions, of finding myself during that period of my life. Which, now that I think about it, was no less chaotic than the abrupt opening track, “On Sight.”

Memories and music often coincide. Can you really say you can listen to “Mo Bamba” or “Old Town Road” and not be reminded of a 2018 college frat party during the Juul era? Well, I’m a little older, so I’m certainly reminded of that.

Some music is universal. Juice Wrld was an artist who dealt with a universal human emotion: sadness. His songs created the sad boy hours phenomenon.

Classical music is often associated with performances like ballet. But the underlying feeling — also instigated by the visual arts — is usually one of grandiosity.

Rock is revolution. It’s punk, angry and the separator between us and our parents. The feeling of rebellion, of questioning authority — “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns N’ Roses and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana remind me of these.

Let’s not forget the feel-good party songs. That emotion of letting go and partying on the beach. “Closer” by the Chainsmokers, “Levels by Avicii, “Titaniumby David Guetta.

This is not an exhaustive list of emotions and their respective songs. Such a thing would be impossible.

The point is that music really is amazing. Some see it (hear it?) as a tool for dancing, others for pure eargasms. I like music because I like to feel.

Contact Rafael Arbex-Murut at 


AUGUST 02, 2023