The next time you’re walking down the street or riding the bus, take a look at the people passing by. I’m going to guess that most of them will be listening to music. I believe that music is one of the most unifying elements in our lives. Chances are, one of the strangers on that bus loves the song you’re listening to. Thousands of people have had the same moment of discovery…falling in love with the band, singer, song, composer, that is currently your favorite. We might not talk about music with everyone we meet, but it’s there—the underlying current beneath everything we say, an unspoken unity between you and the rest of the world.
Pieces can evoke a certain reaction when heard. Often how I feel when I hear a melody is just how you feel. A particular theme from Tchaikovsky’s symphonic poem Romeo and Juliet brings forth rushing feelings of happiness or romance. Orff’s Carmina Burana is unsettling, eerie, and often makes the listener think of the horrific events of the Holocaust. There is a reason directors choose Romeo and Juliet for the high point of a love story, or Carmina Burana to overpower a war scene—they are manipulating our emotions, knowing that our reactions will be the same. Is there any better way to unify the public? Can any other medium produce the same level of harmony?
Music has always been important to my family. My mother went to school for music education, and she used every opportunity to show her children the beauty that can be found in music. From Prokofiev to The Beatles, my musical education began early, and continues to this day. Music is the glue that binds us. This Christmas, my sister brought a new boyfriend to the festivities at my house. Before opening the door she warned, “Just so you know, someone is probably going to be playing the guitar and singing tonight…it’s what we do.” Sure enough, they walked into a Beatles sing-along. This is how I grew up, how my belief in music was shaped.
I’m aware that most people don’t take music to this extreme, allowing it to become a dominant aspect of their lives, but I also know that hardly anyone dislikes all forms of music. It’s comforting to know that no matter how big the world may seem, no matter how alone you might feel, there is at least one other person out there who loves the song you are listening to right now. Herein lies the power of music: it connects us on a level we might not even recognize. It’s more than the people around you at a concert, or the person you had a heated discussion with about whether Herbie Hancock should have won that Grammy. It’s part of nearly everything around us. Human emotions are relatively universal, no matter where on the globe you may be. Music unearths these emotions—it is music that unifies us. This I Believe.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.