Music: Can music save your life?
with Uncle Karl
One of the most rewarding things that musicians can experience about their chosen occupation is the positive influence they can have on others. Oftentimes, they put out music and never know where or how it will land on the ears of listeners. Sometimes, though, they hear from fans — “Your music saved my life.”
Music can help us through rough times in our lives. Our relationship with music can go both ways, as a means of expression or as a received message of hope, understanding, guidance or teaching. Music can give purpose. Countless young people and adults have learned discipline, cooperation, and earned respect by learning to play music. Playing in front of others is as big a leap for a shy person as public speaking, and is often the threshold to heightened self-confidence.
In a similar way, music can be a refuge of acceptance for the “weird kids” who feel they don’t fit in with the common social groups. Identification with a band or style of music can provide an instant badge of belonging to a larger group. Music can make you feel less alone, too. It lets you know there are people who feel the same way as you and have persevered.
Music can also provide a healthy emotional outlet for an otherwise inexpressible emotion. Screaming into a microphone or whaling on a drum set can be an outlet for aggression or anger for a musician, and thrashing along with him or her can provide a similar acceptable release without causing harm to others. Alternately, listening to a symphony or any performance can bring you to tears, dredging up deep feelings that you would never otherwise expose in public.
The ability of music to connect us emotionally is indisputable. It is also clear that each of us has our own personal, individual relationship with music. Everyone has a favorite song or at least a favorite style of music. For some of us, that relationship goes deep, even deeper than relationships with other people can go. How is this possible?
Music speaks to us, but is non-judgmental when it does. It is open to our individual interpretation, which may differ from one person to another, even for the musician who originally wrote or performed it. The same music may speak to us differently at different times, depending on our moods or life situation.
For some, music can express the unexplainable and may give a means to communicate that would be impossible otherwise. In the right moment, music can provide the perfect distillation of angst and emotion that can clarify personal trauma to the point that it can seem to save your life. Although it is not a topic that comes up in idle conversation, chances are you and nearly everyone you know can recall a time in which music provided a turning point in your emotional life, and influenced a decision that changed your life path. Ask someone close to you if music has ever saved or changed their life. You may be surprised at the response.
However, it is important to remember, music doesn’t save lives. Music may help us think about things differently. Music may have provided a focus or a memorable turning point, but you saved your own life. You made the decision to make a change. Enjoy the worthy accompaniment to a life that music can provide, but remember who is in charge.
Karl Prager, aka “Uncle Karl,” is a volunteer programmer on KAFM Community Radio. When he’s not traveling the world or attending music festivals, you can catch Uncle Karl’s “Yellow Dog Show” every other Thursday from 6:30-9 p.m. at 88.1.
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