What do musicians actually do? The ability to process emotions
Articles,  Mettle,  Processes

What do musicians actually do? The ability to process emotions

As far back as I can remember, there has been at least one person who actually came up to me after I conducted a concert or show to say something.

Most of the time it was pleasant, but occasionally it was a passive-aggressive dig about something they didn’t like, usually shared as a “you could have done that better” demand. Or maybe even a blatant “I deserve my money back” complaint. This is music. Go figure.

Here’s the thing:

Everyone had space.

Processing deeper thoughts, emotions and feelings

Most people don’t realize it, but whether they’re silently listening to a gentle Adagio by Mahler, or yelling and screaming with lungs at full capacity during a Deep Purple event, and every occasion in between, music allows us the opportunity to explore and express feelings and emotions we wouldn’t normally dare consider ourselves, let alone consider sharing with others.

Yet as an anonymous audience member or performer, we can.

And we do.

That’s what the live, in-person music environment helps us do. Those physical vibrations, no matter how acutely minute, generate thoughts that, in turn, cause our nerves to activate. We get to think about things influenced by the music we hear and listen to.

But what do we do with those thoughts?

Letting go

Possibly more questions arise than answers when we think too deeply, but more often than not, just by allowing thoughts, feelings and emotions to surface during a concert, we let them go.

And that is valuable beyond belief.

Pent-up emotions are some of the most dangerous catalysts of human interaction.

Emotions that are suppressed for so much time burst forth in a rage of some sort, and often have dire consequences. Sometimes they may be public; sometimes they may be personal.

I know of at least one life that was saved from suicide due to the pent-up emotions generated during the recent pandemic isolation periods. Only when they found out that they could attend live music did they stop from succeeding in their attempt. They knew that participating in music was a safe way to let emotions and feelings surface and then float free.

Why do so many public spaces play music?

Because there is something beyond just the technical aspect of making strings or vocal chords vibrate.

Public restrooms, shopping malls, and a whole host of other places where people gather, play music. Why? Because it directly affects us humans.

What do musicians actually do? The ability to process emotions

As musicians, we must recognize the influence we have on others when we share music.

I do wish Hollywood and the media would actually admit it, too.

They know what they do influences people – it’s why they invest so much in music – but it’s also story that gives our emotions and feelings something to focus on. Sensationalizing almost everything exacerbates our thoughts, which could be great when it comes to a romantic comedy or scientific documentary, but not so good when horror or war is taken to extremes.

What we actually do, then, is give people emotional and spiritual space, help them let go of suppressed emotions and feelings, and search for that something hidden behind the music that is literally inexplicable using words.

Here’s a TRIPLE WIN lesson:

We should be aware of what we actually do for others.

Becoming aware of our influence on others by giving them the space and opportunity to privately and anonymously let go of emotional and spiritual inhibitions helps us become a better musician.