We use words to convey meaning to each other and have a (mostly) shared belief of what a word means. It’s fair to say that words are pretty useful as a form of communication!
We speak words using sound, we write them down using letters and we can even communicate them through sign language. We can describe what we see, what we hear, what we feel and even what we imagine.
We share many beliefs with each other and sometimes hold opposing beliefs too. Without them, things would be…confusing.
Beliefs in our language, in our monetary system, in our friendships and in our very existence are an essential part of the society we live in.
Science has enabled us to observe repeatable patterns that can be demonstrated and cross validated through the scientific method, which has further enhanced our shared understanding of what we can observe.
The more patterns we can observe and validate, the greater our shared understanding and belief becomes.
Sometimes we can observe meaning that is difficult to describe with words, difficult to demonstrate using the scientific method and therefore difficult to convey to other people. These ‘in between’ bits of our lives might exist as a feeling, an experience, an idea or a memory…we know they exist because we have felt them, but it’s sometimes difficult to describe what they are.
Think of the smell of freshly cut grass, then try and describe it. We might say it ‘smells like’ a mixture of other things, or it has a kind of ‘herby’ or ‘fresh’ smell. But we don’t really have a word for this smell, we can just describe other words that might be associated with it in some way. It would also be quite difficult to prove what this grass smells like to you personally in a scientific, repeatable way. But there is some shared belief that we all can perceive this smell and have a similar experience of it.
Music and artistic expression offer a unique set of tools to communicate something, some kind of meaning or feeling or experience, that might be difficult using other tools at our disposal, like words alone.
Listening to music together, we might share some of these experiences, or we might develop our own, personalised interpretation of what we hear. Music gives us a tool to explore the in between bits that humanity hasn’t quite yet quantified.
What are we describing when we make music? Is it a feeling, time, a place, a story, or something else? Like the smell of freshly cut grass, it’s sometimes difficult to describe with words. But we know that it means something, that it is something.
If you’re ever in doubt as to whether your path as a music maker has meaning, whether those hours slaving over your craft are worth it – consider that you are both an explorer and a teacher, helping humanity discover new meaning and understanding.
That’s worth doing.