What is it about music that makes it such good therapy? It empathesizes, it calms, it energizes, it saddens, it delights. Music just has a certain quality that can transform your mood. Sometimes it has real depth, too. I’m sure you’ve all experienced that moment, when a song you’ve listened to a hundred times plays, and it suddenly strikes you what its meaning is. You’d heard the lyrics, but you’d never really listened to them. And sometimes that moment kind of ruins your image of a song from your childhood, like realizing exactly what the lyrics mean in “Crash” by Dave Matthews Band, something that had gone over your innocent little head before. Or sometimes, if you stop and listen, you find a song is very sad, despite its upbeat music. I recently realized, as “Chemo Limo” by Regina Spektor was helping me trudge back up the hill from the gym, that the song is actually the story of a woman dying of cancer who is too poor to pay for chemotherapy. Other times, it is only when your emotions fit the song that you truly understand its meaning, like when on a terrible day I listened to “Another Perfect Day” by American Hi-Fi, and finally heard past the deceiving title.
Occasionally, you connect with a song instantly, the first time you hear it. “Fix You” by Coldplay immediately made me want to cry, as it described perfectly those depressed days in life, and gently reassured them away. And “The General” by Dispatch amazed me with how in-tune its message is with my own personal beliefs about war. Sometimes a moment you associate a song with gives it a whole new intimate meaning. When one of my friends performed “Closing Time” by Semisonic before she went off to college, I began to think of her every time I heard it.
I can’t understand how some people can be so apathetic about music. When someone is asked who his favorite singer is, or what his favorite song is, and he shrugs it off, I’m completely bewildered. Music is such an integral part of my life, I can’t imagine not having it there, accompanying the best and worst moments. I guess it’s kind of like a friend – something to turn to in a time of need, something to join in your happiness. You don’t even have to be musically inclined yourself to enjoy music, just sit back and listen – to the beat, the guitar, the piano, the lyrics, whatever. Customize your own listening experience.
Maybe that’s part of the reason why music can be so therapeutic – you can take from it whatever you want to. One song for you can be a completely different experience for someone else. The experiences I described with the songs I wrote about could be completely at odds with how you view those songs. But it doesn’t matter! Listen to your music with whatever perspective you want – it’s your therapy.