Musical Emotions

Where is the point of connection between sound and emotion?

Our hero declares his love. The music swells. They kiss. And all’s right with the world.

If that movie trope replaced the sound of the swelling music with the sound of crickets, it just wouldn’t be nearly as romantic, would it? Music has a way of evoking emotions in us. It’s really rather fascinating when you think of it, that all of us (in western culture, anyway) pretty much have the same emotional responses to various types of background music. Because all it is is sound. How do we link feeling to it? Where is that point of connection, exactly?

I used to have a side gig captioning movies and television shows. (It was kind of fun, actually, but the pay was horrible. That’s why I quit.) Because of that, I pay very close attention to the work of other captioners. “I wouldn’t have done it that way,” I sometimes think. People don’t realize how much flexibility there is to that job. But the other day I was kind of amused when a captioner wrote “Poignant music” as a description.

I mean, in context, it made a lot of sense. But in reality, if you are deaf, how would you imagine a soundtrack to the word poignant? Even for those of us who can hear, does any particular music pop into your head when you read that word? And yet most of us, reading that while watching the movie, would get the point.

Another fascinating nuance to this topic is that the music in a lot of movies is generic, and created long before the script is ever written. There’s a whole category called Production Music or Library Music that is kind of one size fits all as the situation requires.

For example, a production music company may ask a musician to give them something upbeat and suitable for industrial documentaries. And that’s all the notes these musicians get. Or perhaps they’ll ask for something western themed, or fight scene, or what have you. And from that, they compose, and we hear and respond appropriately. It kind of makes you think about how easily our emotions can be manipulated.

If you want to enter a whole new world, I suggest you go to Youtube and do a search of Library Music. It’s really rather fun and can take you to a lot of unexpected places. At least emotionally.

incandescent_by_carlos_quevedo-d7lx8cy

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Hadestown and Why We Build the Wall

Walls don’t just keep people out. They keep us in. In fear.

A friend of mine sent me a link to a song called Why We Build the Wall, and it is so apropos that it sent chills up my spine. But the irony is that the singer/songwriter, Anaïs Mitchell, didn’t write it recently. In fact, she said, “This song is ten years old… Any resemblance of any contemporary political figures to the King of the Underworld is purely coincidental.”

She wrote the song to be included in a musical called Hadestown, and that play has gotten a bit of a revival of late. It will be playing Broadway in 2019, and they’ve announced a London run as well. If it ever tours this country and comes anywhere near Seattle, I definitely want to see it.

What I find most amusing about this song is that Trump supporters think it’s pro-wall, and that building a wall actually makes us free. So they tend to like the song, too. But in fact, if you listen to the lyrics closely, and actually know the background story of the play, you know that this is Hades attempt to distract the people of Hadestown. He wants to keep them busy, so he can maintain control. He gives them convenient sound bites to repeat until they believe what they’re doing is the right thing. Sound familiar?

Here are the lyrics, but I hope you’ll click on the link to the song above and actually hear it. Only then will you experience it fully, and hopefully realize that walls don’t just keep people out, they keep us in. In fear.

It makes me wonder why we’re being distracted. I mean, we all kind of know. But what don’t we know?

Why We Build the Wall by Anaïs Mitchell

HADES
Why do we build the wall?
My children, my children,
Why do we build the wall?

CERBERUS
Why do we build the wall?
We build the wall to keep us free.
That’s why we build the wall;
We build the wall to keep us free.

HADES
How does the wall keep us free?
My children, my children,
How does the wall keep us free?

CERBERUS
How does the wall keep us free?
The wall keeps out the enemy
And we build the wall to keep us free.
That’s why we build the wall;
We build the wall to keep us free.

HADES
Who do we call the enemy?
My children, my children,
Who do we call the enemy?

CERBERUS
Who do we call the enemy?
The enemy is poverty,
And the wall keeps out the enemy,
And we build the wall to keep us free.
That’s why we build the wall;
We build the wall to keep us free.

HADES
Because we have and they have not!
My children, my children,
Because they want what we have got!

CERBERUS
Because we have and they have not!
Because they want what we have got!
The enemy is poverty,
And the wall keeps out the enemy,
And we build the wall to keep us free.
That’s why we build the wall;
We build the wall to keep us free.

HADES
What do we have that they should want?
My children, my children,
What do we have that they should want?

CERBERUS
What do we have that they should want?
We have a wall to work upon!
We have work and they have none,
And our work is never done,
My children, my children,
And the war is never won.
The enemy is poverty,
And the wall keeps out the enemy,
And we build the wall to keep us free;
That’s why we build the wall.
We build the wall to keep us free.
We build the wall to keep us free.

Special thanks to M for inspiring this post!

hadestown

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