Let music define the contours of your emotion… ?

I am not a ‘classical music’ fanatic. I know very little about the history of music, composers or the political or social relevance of ‘classical’ music creations. I can imagine for the creators, there is a lot of loaded significance behind, underneath and inside many compositions. Perhaps I might dig deeper at some point. But it’s the raw essence of some classical music that I find wonderfully powerful. I have heard it suggested that a definition of ‘classical’ music… is that it transcends cultural, as well as generational barriers… music that’s created through sincere devotion, not through selfish desire, but rather by something greater, which exists beyond time, history or culture. Golly gosh!  When you hear a musicologist say “it’s a ravishingly beautiful piece of music … and we can’t quite understand why…” that’s the kind of thing that makes music special.  What has struck me over the last few years is the power of music to affect. 

I am a fan of a radio series ‘Soul Music’ on BBC Radio 4. A series about pieces of music with a powerful emotional impact. The programmes highlight ordinary people’s stories about a variety of popular and classical tracks and how they have been significant in their lives. I hesitate to recommend, give it a listen!

Yes, I am still a fan of popular music, and cherish the memories of music from my childhood and through my student years. Music that ranges from rock and roll’s Sun Sessions, Eddie Cochran, through Adam and the Ants, Hothouse Flowers, through The Proclaimers, Oasis, REM, through Paul Simon and Eva Cassidy, through Bugge Wesseltoft and Jon Hopkins. Too many to list (think MMU 1990’s Student Union end of term disco, courtesy of pop fanatic Vicky Richardson). If you imagine how much music has sifted through your synapses, it’s a rich smorgasbord of delights and memories! 

I am thankful that in my early years I experienced music and specifically ‘song’ as part of everyday life, and I can associate music with memories of people, promises, hopes and times gone by. I fear young people today might not experience ‘song’ quite as we did. But what do I know?

A lot of popular music is imbued with the culture of the time. We personally load music with memories and experiences in our lives…  That’s what we relish when we are young. We have an exciting appetite to consume and soak up our surroundings. This is good, and I hope the music and culture our young people encounter continues to nourish and fertilize their lives. I hope it grows and stays rich and varied and does not become formulaic pulp.

But I am middle-aged and though I still enjoy new-culture I sometimes feel my mind is full, my sponge is saturated, my canvas is bursting with signs, symbols and signifiers… After the events of 5 years ago, I have got through things in part by taking a step back and breathing again. Like a form of indigestion, I had to stop, walk away from the table and rethink my cultural appetite and cerebral diet. I had to ship into harbour and re-rig. Cut out the noise and listen again!

In years past, I would never have predicted that I might habitually listen to Radio 3!  But, I have to admit, for about three years, my morning routine has seen me listening to (fellow Cornishman) Petroc Trelawny’s selections on ‘Breakfast‘ on BBC Radio 3.

As I cycle my 45mins to work, endorphins cause the abstract combination of musical compositions accompanying the fresh air, wildlife, seasons (sun, rain, wind, snow) and the things and people I meet, to become more than the sum of their parts. Combine {insert random piece of music} with a sunrise, a river, wildlife, a friendly ‘morning!’ fresh air, cardiovascular exercise and helpful neurochemicals, and you have a hint towards life in all its fullness.  

The above doesn’t seem so easy on the way home, it’s just as the day starts that it seems more possible to glimpse something true before the business of the day kicks in, before the popular noise takes over…

So in the words of a cheesy (we all need a little cheese) pop song “Thank you for the music…”.

As The Inkspots sang “I don’t want to set the world on fire…”.

As Liam O’maonlai and friends  “some people jive when they hear music start, others just kneel…”.


As Mr Brown sang “have a funky good time…”

…But, before you crank up your musical choices, take a pause, unclench your fist, and take a listen to something else outside of the popular media…

As Tchaikovsky wrote…



By julesprichards

Anchoring in the shire, with family, friends, coffee and cheese… always looking…