So, what does music do to you? I’m not asking how music makes you feel. I’m asking does music make you change your mind about the world. Does it help you appreciate life and give meaning to your existence?
When I look at visual art, paintings, sculptures and such, I feel at home. I feel they are talking to me about my world and the artist. Visual art comforts me, even if some shocks and disturbs me, I find there’s an element of solace and support in almost all visual art. Music, like all the other arts, reflects the experience of being human. But it can also reflect the experience of being you as an individual. Music can be personal like no other art form.
One of the odd things about music, as compared to painting, is that only a couple of composers have written a self-portrait in music. Here’s one by Ligeti, Selbstportrait. Almost every artist that ever lived has created a self-portrait, sometimes many. But composers rarely do that, why not?
Ligeti: 3 Pieces for 2 Pianos – II. Selbstportrait
Countless pieces of music supposedly mirror or are dedicated to other people. Think of Beethoven’s Für Elise. One of my favourites is the song Julia, by the incredible duo known as The Eurythmics. It was written as part of the soundtrack to the movie of George Orwell’s book 1984.
Beethoven: Für Elise (Lang Lang)
Eurythmics – Julia
What does music do to You? Can it make you a criminal? Can it create a passive or introspective personality? Music certainly changes the way you feel, but can it change your personality? Will religious music make you a better person and get you closer in touch with your god?
Of course, countless studies show how music can make you aggressive, sad, happy and any number of other things, but can it change your being? I say yes because it has changed me. If it changes others, I am unsure. I know several people who are unaffected by music. For them, music is something that fills the background and can be switched off and on at any time.
I know one person who says he never purposely listens to music. Is that possible? It may be because he has the most nonchalant personality of any person I have ever met. He is undisturbed by almost everything.
Saint-Saëns: Carnival of the Animals – Aquarium
Aquarium from Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saëns. Is this an unassuming piece of music that represents creatures swimming in a fishbowl, or could it turn you into a villain? It could easily be used to accompany a crime scene in a movie. It has a sneaking around and devious quality. What about Tomaso Antonio Vitali? Does his Chaconne in G minor drive you into a pit of black madness? Can music like this permanently alter who you are?
Tomaso Antonio Vitali: Chaconne in G Minor for violin and piano
If music can affect your heart rate, bodily movements, your mood and help you sleep and relax, music must be able to change you permanently. Like a parent or teacher helping you grow and learn, music must develop your personality.
When I was younger, my friends all loved popular music. They were divided into their camps of bands and trends in music. And the people in these camps reflected the attitude and styling of the music they loved. They become the music they followed. Not just in their clothes and attitudes, but their whole makeup mirrored the philosophy of their music.
This video, What Your Favorite Music Says About Your Personality helps explain (according to them) more about how music reflects peoples’ personalities. While it sounds like a horoscope reading, it does not go into how music develops people’s personalities.
What Your Favorite Music Says About Your Personality
Franz Liszt had a powerful personality, which affected people he met. Few pieces of his reflect the sound of peace and tranquillity. Clara Schumann said Liszt was a “smasher of pianos”. His Totentanz (Danse Macabre) is a work of astounding force and dynamic. Did it reflect his personality? The answer is no. Liszt was genuinely humble. But inside, to be able to create music like this, a rage of life must have existed.
Liszt: Totentanz (Denis Matsuev)
Maybe in Liszt’s case, he became another person while only at the piano. Maybe music only temporarily changed him; we can never know.
Music, for many of us, is not something we just listen to. Music is more than a reflection of who we are. Music builds people, it shapes them, it guides them. For composers, the fingerprints of our lives are all over and in our music. To hear music is like experiencing other people.
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