Music books have a special place in The River Trading Company.
Often, music cuts to the heart quicker than fine art. It reminds us of past traumas and triumphs, resurrecting memories and feelings we thought were long dead. Music magnetizes people to a sound and a message. It can insult deeper than a Youtube video comment or inspire further than a motivational meme.
How does music do all of this? How is music able to hit such deep places in our souls? Why do we love music?
Although these questions have been tackled by philosophers and scientists for centuries, the books at The River Trading Company tell a simple story about the history of music and our connection to it.
They sing what we’re feeling.
Inspiring musicians pull melodies and poetry from the depths of their experiences. Even if they aren’t writing about something that happened to them, the best songwriters have an emotional attachment to what they’re writing.
Music is the language of emotion. It’s the purest form of communicating longing, desire, hatred, fear, love, joy, and all other heart-states. The musician forms emotion into sound. We interpret sound into emotion. Even if we hate the music, the melodies still elicit a response.
One of the most emotional songs has a terribly sad story behind it. “Tears in Heaven” is arguably Eric Clapton’s most popular song. It was written after the death of Eric’s 4 year old son, Conor. Eric and his wife were seperated and Eric always struggled with what it meant to be a father. One day Eric realized he wanted nothing more than to be there for his son. Days later Conor died.
Eric wrote “Tears in Heaven” as a way to process his grief and you can feel the sadness in the song. Even though it’s not a happy feeling, it’s a strong feeling, and that’s what draws people to it.
Music helps us remember important moments.
Emotions brand moments into our memories. Music summons specific emotions and spontaneously recalls feelings and memories that we hadn’t thought of for years.
Listening to music while reading a book embeds the emotions of the story into your memory. Ever listen to an album or song years later and remember what it was like reading that favourite book? It’s bizarre how the story and the song are connected.
How you listen to music is important to specific memories as well. Many people who grew up watching American Bandstand will enjoy music from Jerry Lee Lewis or Sonny and Cher on a CD player or iPod. But put on a vynl LP and a slew of unexpected memories are unearthed.
We can rally together behind a melody or a message.
Music carries a message… Most of the time. Some musicians write non-sense and it makes millions. But when we sing about freedom or love, like folk and rock music from the counter-culture movement, fans gather around the message as much as the melody. Musicians even put poltical statements to melodies hoping that the sounds will carry their cause further.
The Woodstock concerts demonstrate the extreme power of music to unite people under an ideal. Peace, love and the American way were themes that over 400,000 people who gathered in the fields of Sullivan County, New York were sold on.
Music makes us move.
Whether it’s instinct, personality, or a learned cultural practice, music makes us want to dance. Different beats and rhythms are known to inspire spontaneous muscle responses. The easiest tempo to move to is 120 BPM (beats per minute).
A lot of techno and Dub-Step electronic music is written (or programmed…) to 120 BPM. That’s why most electronic music is classified as “dance music.” It’s written for clubs where people want to buckle and jive to deep bass and screaming synth, free of inhibition.
Celebrity created it.
When the music elevates a person to celebrity, the simple fact that they made something can be reason enough for people to love what they made.
We love to worship people. Or to at least feel as close to them as possible. We consume gossip, rumours, news, announcements, paparazzi pictures and tabloid headlines more and more with our increasing access to media and information.
At some point, the music’s sonic appeal doesn’t matter. Simply because it was created by our favourite celebrity makes it appealing to us. This isn’t always the case, but don’t you wonder why some musicians are still hitting number 1 on the charts when their best melodies and lyrics were clearly behind them?
But let’s not be too harsh. Great musicians and performers have attained celebrity status because of sheer talent and an instinct for what people want to hear.
Michael Jackson was arguably one of those celebrities. He had a tight hold on his performance (until later in his life, maybe) and he demanded the best from himself and his team. It was how he was raised, which may not have been the best childhood, but MJ’s music hit all the facets of what makes great music.
Regardless of what we enjoy, when music plucks one of our emotional chords, it’s hard not to get attached. Once we’re hooked, we want to know all about the musicians and melodies that stir us. Music literature satisfies that desire. And so music books have a special place at The River Trading Company.