Singers! Musicians! What are our jobs? We whose art is the shaping of sounds and silences into experiences that others can apprehend, what do we do it for? What is its purpose?
Heavy stuff. Opens up a lot of debate. But I refer you to a few Wikipedia quotes to back up a premise that has some Truth for your correspondent:
- “Since ancient times, it has been thought that music has the ability to affect our emotions, intellect, and psychology; it can assuage our loneliness or incite our passions.” (source)
- “The study of music and emotion is a branch of music psychology that seeks to understand the psychological relationship between human affect and music.” (source)
- “…music seems to reach to the very core of what it means to be human… music might get its emotive power through its ability to mimic people and perhaps its ability to entice us lies in music’s ability to set up an expectation and then violate it.” (source)
Might it be true that we make music to make others feel something?
Whether or not you accept that premise, consider for a moment how uncomfortable most people seem to feel, in most situations, when confronted with someone having an overwhelming emotional experience. When someone is sad, rather than let them feel sad, we often catch ourselves saying “cheer up!” When someone is stressed, we often catch ourselves urging them to be calm and relaxed. Is this a good, healthy thing to do? Or does a person’s mental/emotional/spiritual health depend upon genuinely feeling and processing their emotions?
Whatever your belief about music’s role in emotion, and emotion’s role in a healthy human experience, we’ve got a prompt for you about it.
Your Prompt: Sing for someone else’s emotions. If it feels true for you that music is a way to have an effect on someone’s affect and that that’s an appropriate thing to do, then sing something that could calm, or enliven, or bring relief from sorrow. If you believe that deeply feeling emotions is an important thing for people to do, sing something to stand in the presence of such an experience—or, get a little meta and sing to satirize our impulse to control the feelings of another. Finally, if you’re in the “absolute music” camp, sing to satirize the assertion that music has any emotive function at all.
It’s good to have options. Here are ways to perhaps make the prompt a bit easier, or ways to go a bit further with it.
Option A: I Know That Feel – For an easier stretch, let’s take the case that music does have an interpersonal emotive purpose, and that it’s good and right for people to feel their feels. Sing a song that acknowledges and honors an intense feeling that someone may be feeling. One route is to sing in caring compassion; another is to sing mirroring the emotion, so as to communicate “you are not alone in having ever felt this.”
Option B: That’s Entertainment – For a deeper stretch, let’s take the opposing assertion: that music does not have an inherent connection to emotion, or not necessarily. Sing some “absolute music,” something that exists and has beauty for its own sake, independent of its ability (or lack thereof) to affect a feeling. I suspect that it may be possible to construct something out of the building-blocks of music that is so intricate and balanced that it is undeniably beautiful. It may even be possible to improvise such a thing. For this Option, give it a try.
The steps are as follows:
- Step 0: Sign up for a free SoundCloud account here. Join the SSS group.
- Step 1: Record yourself singing for someone’s emotions.
- Step 2: Upload to SoundCloud and post the track to the SSS group.
- Step 3: Listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow singers. (Play nice!)
Deadline: Your tracks should be uploaded by midnight wherever you are on Monday, June 6, 2016.
Length: The length of your finished work should be about 2 to 5 minutes, or however long you need to sing your song.
Description: It would be awesome to include a short description of where and when you sang your piece—and how it felt.
Title/Tag: When uploading to SoundCloud, put “[sss-emotions2]” in the title of your track. Also include the term “sss-emotions2” as a tag. This will help us find it.
Group: Once the track is uploaded, click on the “Add to group” button below the waveform and make sure to select the Society for Spontaneous Singing group. (This option will only appear if you have already joined the group! So do that now.)
Linking: You are welcome to include this info in your description:
This track is a reply to “Prompt 71: ‘Don’t Feel That Way.’” More on the Society for Spontaneous Singing at http://singthis.org. You can join the SSS at https://soundcloud.com/groups/society-for-spontaneous-singing
Thank you, sweet singers!