Why Music Works

One of the most calming things that societies have ever devised is the lullaby. In almost every culture there has ever been, mothers have rocked and sung their babies to sleep.

The baby is showing us that we are all tonal creatures long before we are creatures of understanding.

The musician can, at points, trump anything the philosopher might tell us.

When we feel anxious or upset, kindly people sometimes try to comfort us by pointing to facts and ideas: they try to influence our thinking and – via careful arguments – to quieten our distress. But the most effective way to deal with the problem may simply be to play us music.

Music is the greatest mood adjustor we have ever invented. Its benefits can be broken down as follows:

  • It can reunite us with feelings we need, but have lost touch with.  It is the axe that breaks the frozen sea within us.
  • It can lend a dignity to our sorrows, framing and containing what might otherwise be unmanageable grief.
  • Music returns us to life, gently nudging us to return to the side of generosity and hope.
  • We can follow in its grooves of confidence, when our own will is lagging.
  • It is there to take us beyond the everyday, to transcend the ordinary and survey ourselves from a lofty height.
  • It reconnects us with our instinctual, bodily selves when reason, logic and discipline are in danger of crushing us.
  • It breaks down the barriers between strangers – urging us to see what we have in common, rather than what divides us.

We fully discover our debt to music when we can acknowledge just how powerless we sometimes are to change our moods through reason alone.

A good life does not only need a library of ideas: it requires a vast and ever-changing playlist that can systematically tug us back to our more hopeful, sensitive and resilient selves