The Definition of Music

February 11, 2010
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Music. There are all different types of music. There’s country, classical, rap/hip-hop, rock, pop, R&B, techno, disco, jazz, musical theatre, tango, folk, renaissance, and blues. There’s world wide music that’s loved and listened to all around the world and there’s also regional music created and directed towards certain areas of the world.

But what really is music? Music could be defined as a release of emotion or a career or some junk that’s on the radio or a language that the whole world speaks. Everyone has his or her own definition for music.

For me, music is everything. I can’t define it with a certain phrase or euphemism because it has so many meanings to me. One thing I do know is that I always find myself listening to music and I always, sometimes unintentionally, find a way to relate a person or a situation in my life to a song. That way, when I want to think about a certain person or situation, I could just listen to the song.

Sometimes, songs can hijack emotions and force memories to bubble to the surface that otherwise may have not.

In second grade, I met my best friend Nicole. Through elementary and middle school we created a friendship that for the both of us could never be duplicated. It was in seventh grade that I found out she was moving to Florida. As a naive twelve year old, I didn’t believe it and as time went on and the date kept getting pushed back, it just proved my theory correct.

Although I didn’t believe it, I still treated everyday we spent together like our last and often thought about her leaving and got that empty feeling in my pit of my stomach because I wasn’t quite sure what to do.

One night, in the summer going into eighth grade, we were sitting in her room. The windows were open which opened up a path for the sounds of the crickets to fill the room. The sound of crickets was an ordinary sound for any usual summer night, but on this particular one the sound of the crickets became more obvious as it drowned out the silence in the room. A warm breeze swept across the room which felt refreshing, since the air conditioning was on high in her house. She was sitting on her bed and I was sitting on her cold hardwood floor. She had one of those pianos in her room where a person chooses a song and the keys flash red and that person follows along with those keys to play the song. Or if it’s preferred, a song can just be selected and it just plays the music.

Nicole turned on #88. To this day, I still don’t know what the song is called. It’s just #88 on the piano to me.

It was a soft song. Some could interpret it as calm and others could interpret it as sad. For me, no song in the world stirs up the same amount of emotion.

As the song began, she put her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around her knees. She started making up her own lyrics to the song. She was singing about her dad starting up the truck and pulling away and me running after the car to try and stop her.
It was one of the most vivid images I’ve ever imagined. I heard the whirl of the engine as it turned on and backed out of the driveway. I saw the eagle with an American flag on the back window of her dad’s dark blue Ford truck with a 10 foot bed on the back. I saw the tarp covering the bed, protecting their belongings that once resided in the house they were now pulling away from. I remember feeling alone and helpless. I knew deep down running after the truck wasn’t going to help anything or make them stay, but I thought it was all I could do. I kept turning around in every direction and I wasn’t sure what I was looking for.
Surprisingly, I didn’t share this image with her. By that point, it had become accustom to share every thought we had with each other. But I stayed alone with this image. Maybe I was embarrassed for having imagined all that or maybe it was just too painful to talk about. When thoughts are sheltered in your mind, they seem a lot less painful than when you have to speak them.
We sat in her room and listened and wondered what it would be like. What would life be like without my best friend? We didn’t want to think about it but at the same time, it was inevitable.
Sometimes, a person needs another person to open his or her eyes to a song or a band that he or she never paid much attention to.
This past summer, I was in the car with someone who we’re just going to call “Leon.” It was a summer of new people and new experiences.
When a person doesn’t know much about someone and they share a certain liking they have, that’s usually what’s associated with that person and what sticks. If a person shares with you his or her favorite movie, it’s likely that movie will start reminding you of that person. Or a book for that matter, if you see the name or the cover of that book, it’s very likely that person will come to mind.
Or if Leon shared with you that his favorite band is Kings of Leon you can safely assume when you hear that band you will think of nothing but that person. Or maybe that’s just the way it is for me.
Since I didn’t know much about “Leon” I tried to learn more about him. I listened to the band more often and learned their new songs. I listened to the lyrics with the hopes of maybe learning something new. It wasn’t very successful though. I didn’t learn much about him by listening to the music, aside from his taste in music. What I did earn from it was a constant, permanent reminder of Leon.
It didn’t help much when a song by Kings of Leon titled “Use Somebody” was constantly on the radio for the months he most occupied my life.
I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to feel when I heard that song. People generally do not choose the emotions they feel about something or someone. The emotions were sort of nameless. It was happiness, nervousness, and anxiousness all mixed into one.
Now, months after the summer of new people and new experiences faded away, the emotions that Kings of Leon stirred up changed drastically. I’m still reminded of that nameless feeling, but that emotion has become more complex. Now it’s a mixture of a feeling of betrayal and a loss of innocence as well as the happiness, nervousness, and anxiousness.
Songs can mean so many things to different people. Those meanings can change also depending on the situation. That’s why music is so complex and something that can’t be defined with one certain definition. Everyone has his or her own definition.
Music is one of the only things the whole world can understand. Every country, every race, every type of person, and every period in history has their own type of music. But, people don’t necessarily have to understand the words to connect with the music; people just relate to it and that’s what makes everybody connect.

Music has the power to take over one’s feelings, thoughts, and memories. The melody or the lyrics of a song can symbolize something so strong or drastic in one’s life it forces that person to fill up with the emotion or memory that song pries out. It could hurt you or it could make you happy, there’s no control over music.

The definition of music will never be concrete; it’s whatever you choose it to be.

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This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

Ms. S. said...
Feb. 20, 2010 at 10:35 am
You really hit a nerve with me. It is certainly true that I associate certain songs with specific emotions. Thanks for writing about an experience that we all have in common but which is uniquely personal.
Ms. D said...
Feb. 19, 2010 at 6:46 pm
This piece is so thought provoking and accomplishes just what good writing should do - makes you think about some part of your everyday life that you take for granted. Music is a powerful force in our lives...when you stop to really listen.
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