Connecting Music to Emotion

July 10, 2018 by Mobile Beat

“Without music, life would be a mistake” – Nietzsche

Despite the obvious negative implication this can have for the deaf, this is generally a statement which we can get behind. We’ve all had moments where music has driven us to strong emotion, to tears or anger, to bring up feelings of love or loneliness, and to help us connect with our fellow man. But what is it that makes music such an effective method of manipulating the inner workings of our mind, of changing or reinforcing our moods? How is it that DJs and other musicians can take advantage of this for a greater impact? In this article, we aim to take a look.

The Basics of Recognition

To understand the most basic aspects of how music and sound affect our brains we need to take a look at psychology, and specifically how this plays with the brain’s temporal lobe. Among the main functions of this lower portion of the brain is auditory processing, which translates the vibrations from our ears into a sense which we are capable of understanding. Of course, other parts of the brain play major parts as well, but the primary component exists within this lobe.

Do you ever notice how tension in horror or thriller movies can be conveyed through the use of a singular low bass-tone or other simple tricks, as Atlas Obscura investigates, running almost beyond the limits of notice? This is an example of the sort of direct interpretation our brains perform on basic sounds, with various noises and pitches generating what is, in effect, an automatic physical response. This can be further extrapolated to more complex notes, for example, minor chords tend to create feelings of sadness, while major chords tend towards feelings of happiness, as demonstrated by YouTuber Letzrockitrite:

This is only the beginning, as other sounds such as minor triads and sevenths act as strong generators for feelings of nostalgia, and the C chord is notorious for its place among happy and upbeat musical tracks. Together, these can act as a basis for song building which, when coupled with the right lyrics, helps guide the listener through a well-cultivated experience.

While the exact placement and engineering of these notes, chords, and tones into music will depend heavily on the genre, the general idea is that certain feelings are best represented through certain forms. This is why a lot of the music we experience in daily life seems so perfectly fitting, as almost a soundtrack to what we do. Hop in an elevator? Enjoy the calm and relaxing music which aids relaxation. Playing games in a casino? As Betway Casino points out, expect easy listening music to help maintain the balance between chilled atmosphere and the thrill of winning.

A People of Story and Community

If we look deeper into the aspects of music it becomes necessary to also understand the exact role which music can take for us as animals. As any student of humanity will tell you, the primary component of our success as the dominant force on earth comes down to our intelligence. While today we have the written words and vast educational structures from which to teach, historically speaking, our methods of sharing knowledge were much less professional and sterile, and much more communal and emotive. We used to gather around the campfire and tell stories of myth and history, as noted by the Smithsonian, and early history is full of examples of the use of music as a means to bond a community.

In effect, music has adopted the way we used to learn, the way we used to build community trust and spirit, and changed it into something new, though just as powerful. We are still the same creatures which enjoy the same setting, even if the contents have changed.

Building a Set

With the above in mind, it becomes pretty clear as to why building a proper set as a DJ is anything other than the simple noise creation the uninformed often cite. Creating a set means keeping in mind the way in which people respond to individual notes, and creating a cohesive experience through a flowing combination of these emotive tones. From here, a DJ must also keep in mind the crowd, what they want to hear, and how the music might both please them and guide the audience to a coherent and communal experience. All of this while also keeping in mind the nostalgia which is felt for other established music, which is further utilized by a DJ to find their own place within the contemporary scene, or to show respect to that which has come before.

It’s an equation, a complicated musical problem solved through both technicality and abstraction, and in that, the creation of emotive forms of music can be as much about science as it is about art.

A Future of Potential

It’s hard to know exactly how music will evolve over time. As society changes so too does our taste, and this is reflected in how we like to listen. Whether you are interested in creating music now, or in the future, it is important to understand the emotional components of both society and sound and the interplay between the two. Remember that no music is created in a vacuum, and the best musicians tend to be those who can best capture our loves, our insecurities, and our fears.


Filed Under: Mobile DJ Misc