Music and the Emotive

Music has the incredible power to take you back. It can take you to sunsets in your childhood and angst-ridden break ups from your teens. Without realising it, it seems that those notes, rhythms and musical nuances, have been assigned to your memory with the feelings you were feeling when you heard it.

I find the most striking example of this, for me, is a particular alarm song. This alarm can, within two beats, take my emotional state back to a time it would wake me up daily and panic would consume me. It has the power to strike the happiness from me in an instant and create waves of doubt in my current happiness. This time in my life stripped my confidence and left me in tatters in its aftermath. How is it now, when I had felt so much stronger, that I could hear the notes of the alarm and find it physically hard to breath? I could feel the fear radiate from my very being and would find it impossible to concentrate on anything other than my sheer panic. I am sure that this was not the intended reaction from the musicians who created this ringtone; its bubbly sound world would seem to be intended for quite the opposite. Yet, when I hear it, I can almost feel the cold, winter air which surrounded those December mornings.

There are countless songs that seem to have the opposite effect on me. I hear the first 3 seconds of Gypsy King’s Bamboleo and I am immediately taken back to holidays from my childhood. Even now, as soon as the sun shines, I feel myself having a Gypsy King Moment where I feel the elation of Summer and happiness fall upon me like the sun’s rays. This happiness can also be related to the collective happiness it has given my family over the years. I hear this music and feel the sunshine, smiles and happiness of radiating from my family’s faces. Music’s collective power has given this experience to me and my family.

This collective energy can be witnessed with the Last Post, played at war memorial services. This single melody played by trumpet traditionally, represents so much more than just a piece of music. This melody holds the collective pain of millions of people around the world, who have fought, been affected, and are still fighting wars. This simple melody has the power to strike silence, pain and reflection over a civilians and servicemen alike. It has the power to cast thoughts of the barbaric outcomes of war and can despair even the most strong-willed.

Music is a representative force; it can effect your outlook, mood and inner-thoughts with tiny melodic fragments and chords. Music can be an extension of your innermost feelings, and through this relationship, is bonded to those emotions.




This is an area I am incredibly interested in. I intend to research more about how these emotive connections happen. If you’re interested too, have a look at the link below.

Here is an interesting article written by the BBC about this topic. It discusses scientific and social studies surrounding music and its emotional qualities:

BBC Future- Why Music has a Hotline to our Emotions


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