“Music is the study of invisible relationships between internal objects.”
As a performer, I’ve had a number of experiences over the years in which my music has touched someone emotionally in some deep way. While some of these stories are too personal to convey, I’ve become very interested in further understanding the powerful relationship between music and emotion. While the connection between the two is evident throughout history and across all cultures, some of my direct experiences as a performer have nevertheless been so profound that I am left to wonder in amazement at how the simple notes coming from the hammered dulcimer can occasionally evoke strong emotional memories and reactions from someone sitting in the audience.
I’ve stumbled across tidbits of information here and there that I wish I had saved. For example, I found one discussion suggesting that music has the ability to take all the mixed-up emotions inside our minds and help them find their place, releasing dissonance in the process. Another article pointed out that anytime you perform in public there is likely at least one person in the audience that really needs to hear your music at that moment. You will usually never know who that person is as they may be the least likely to approach you after the performance (but then again… sometimes they do). The point of that article was that anytime you start wondering why you put all that time into preparation (and suffer through the pre-performance jitters yet again), remember that you’re playing for that person in that moment.
With all of that in mind, I point you towards this article by Karl Paulnack, posted as a Welcome Address to new students entering the Boston Conservatory. Karl touches on the emotional meaningfulness of music and relays some deeply heartfelt experiences that mirror some of mine:
Maybe someday I will tell some of my stories. In the meantime, I will continue to learn and play, but with a deeper appreciation for why it matters.