Conveyance of emotion through song

I have a broad taste in music. I am mainly into “alternative” or “rock” music, however I also love classical music, songs from musicals and some pop/dance music. It all depends on how the music makes me feel.


Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings is an example of a classical track which electrifies my senses. I get shivers down my spine and I feel like I’m transported to another dimension, where raw emotions are highlighted and time stands still.

I also can’t help loving the William Orbit remix of the same track. Timed right, it would make the perfect New Year’s countdown song, so the track is at 1:34 at the stroke of midnight. As this is a trance mix it doesn’t stir up my emotions in the same way as the original but it still makes me want to stop what I’m doing and just appreciate the sound.


In my opinion, more important than the music are the lyrics to songs. This is, I think, the reason my taste in music is so broad. It seems there is a track out there to fit every emotion, thought and feeling you may have. I’ve recently been having a pretty horrible time of depression, relationships breaking down, people talking shit about me and some dark thoughts of suicide and self-harm. Throughout this, music, songs really, have been a constant companion, truly understanding how I’m feeling at that present moment.


Some people may say it’s not healthy to listen to “depressing” music when you’re depressed. Before I list the tracks which have stood out for me and the reasons they have, I just wanted to point out that whether I listened to the music or not, my thoughts and feelings would be the same. There would just be more silence.


When I have been feeling at my most low and helpless, there are three songs which are my “go to” tracks as they sum up exactly how I’m feeling:


A Drowning by How to Destroy Angels:

The chorus, “Please, anyone, I don’t think I can save myself, I’m drowning here…” really speaks to me. It is the cry for help that I so desperately want to shout out. I can be driving, tears streaming down my face and I will put this track on, hoping, wishing someone would realise I am actually asking, “Please, anyone, I need help”. Obviously no-one does, nor do I really expect them to.


How Long by How to Destroy Angels:

Again, it’s the chorus which speaks to me, “How long can we keep holding on?” It’s a question I ask myself on an all too regular occasion. There are days I only “hold on” because I am a mother to two small boys who are my world. I’m currently not the best mother in the world and it’s something which both upsets and frustrates me on a daily basis. I get asked each time I see my GP if the boys are still enough to prevent myself from self-harming or having a timeline, the only thing missing from my suicide plan. The last time I went I had to be honest and say that I didn’t know. What I do know is that with my continued counselling sessions, the support from some amazing friends and the love from my sons, I want desperately to get well and to never have these thoughts again.


The third song, keeping it Trent Reznor, is Hurt by Nine Inch Nails:


First the obvious, “I hurt myself today, to see if I still feel…” basically sums up why many people self-harm. One of the most surprising and horrible elements of depression is how often you just feel numb and you just want to feel something. When you know you need to cry but the tears just don’t come and you sit, staring blankly at the wall, brain full of fog and thoughts of dying. For me, the more poignant line is “Everyone I know goes away in the end…” This has certainly been true for a lot of people who used to be in my life. Not just acquaintances but family, friends with whom I had been very close for over a decade have left and removed every trace of my existence from their lives. It hurts because I can’t understand what I have done wrong other than separate from my husband and have depression, however, in their eyes, I must have done something. It must be me, I am very good at losing friends; I don’t do so well at making them.


When I am not wallowing in my sadness and I think of the people who have, for want of a better phrase, deserted me at my most vulnerable, I occasionally feel another unwelcome emotion: anger. The songs I listen to then are at the complete opposite end of the musical spectrum, although they are still “alternative” tracks. The track which immediately springs to mind is Go to Hell for Heaven’s Sake by Bring Me the Horizon:

I would like to say there is a particular line which stands out to me, however, when I listen to this song I imagine the whole thing being broadcast directly from my brain to those who have deserted me. Whilst I realise it’s not healthy to get angry at them, it is a preferable state to the “why did they leave me, I feel so alone” thoughts and the sadness which accompanies them. I would love to have the courage to send a message containing the bridge lyrics as it sums up why so many people have done what they have: “You’re not a shepherd, you’re just a sheep, a combined effort of everyone you meet. You’re all flesh, with no bone, feed them to the sharks and throw them to the wolves…”


There are, of course, the good days where I feel more positive, where I feel proud of the progress I’ve made and how independent I have become in a short space of time. My favourite song to sum this up is Make Yourself by Incubus:

The chorus lyrics sum up why this is “You should make amends with you, if only for better health, but if you really want to live, why not try and make yourself…” Basically, although it’s easier said than done, I know I need to make myself do things that make me happy. Stop trying to please everyone else and stop constantly worrying about what people think. When I listen to this track, I feel like I can do it, I CAN be that person who makes themselves live the life THEY want not what everyone else wants or expects them to do. Unfortunately, the feeling lasts for precisely 3:04.


Whilst you may not agree or even like my choices, I am sure every person who reads this can agree that there are song lyrics which perfectly fit a situation or emotion they have found themselves in. It’s what speaks to you, what makes a song stand out from the rest, becomes embedded in your memory and moves your heart and mind in a way no other song can. I look forward to the day when I can write a follow up post, one which contains the tracks which highlight happiness and contentment in my life.

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