Where words fail, music speaks…

*This isn’t comedy or meant to be funny so if you are here to laugh or for something silly, check out another post :)*

“If a composer could say what he had to say in words he would not bother trying to say it in music.” – Gustav Mahler.

I couldn’t agree with Gustav Mahler’s words more. Within the quote, there is the question of using specific languages or arts to communicate feelings and thoughts. Since English is my first language, I am going to use it to provide examples. English is an impressive language with a great number of synonyms for each word, many of which have different connotative degrees of intensity. For example, the simple word “happy,” which everyone is familiar with, has the synonyms “glad,” “joyous,” “elated” and “ecstatic” and each one seems

to be a greater degree of “happy” than the previous. However, sometimes, no synonym could possibly be enough to describe your joy. When you hold your new-born brother for the first time, the words “overjoyed” and “ecstatic” pale in comparison to the emotions you feel.  Maybe Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony would be closer actually.

I think there is a clear reason for this. You can use words to communicate your thoughts and feelings but they only help others to understand what you feel. On the other hand, music can actually let them see how you feel (and that is if jumping up and down is not indicative enough of your joy). Let me use the same example of the birth of my brother. I can easily tell my friends, “It was a beautiful moment for me. My heart was beating slightly faster because of the joy and exhilaration that was coursing through my veins from holding my brother after months of waiting.” These words are well enough to create sufficient imagery in the minds of others but maybe the beauty of the moment could be explained better with the moving pleasant tunes of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy in the fourth movement of Symphony No. 9 or my joyous heart’s rhythm with the quick tempo and diverse dynamics of the fourth movement of Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony.

While I may use music to describe my emotions in this blog post, composers might actually compose music, to describe their strongest emotions – not just happiness but others like excitement, anger, sadness and pride – because, as in my case, words are not sufficient for them in some instances. I think this does not just apply to music but to all art forms – dance, painting, poetry and others. The calm and peace someone might experience could be expressed though the soft and slow tunes of music, the smooth, elegant steps in contemporary dance, the cool colours in a painting or the description of a winter landscape in a Robert Frost poem instead of simply stating, “I feel peaceful today.” The concept of using arts to describe and communication emotions and thoughts is not new – it has been the inspiration of artists for centuries. It stems of the need of humans to – not only inform others and make them understand – but to share feelings so that others can have a semblance of what they feel when words aren’t sufficient to express. As Victor Hugo once rightfully said, “Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.”


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