Music as a Metaphor

Language tells us that music is a tangible object, beyond a simple experience.

The comparison is often drawn that, music while being mere air pressure fluctuations, has a tangible nature that can be manipulated and  experienced by the listener in a manner that they would interact with other physical objects.

People often say:

‘The music washed over the audience.” As though the music were water.

“The musician wove a masterpiece.” As though the music were a fabric.

“The composer built a beautiful symphony.” As though the music was a monument or structure.

All people who have heard or listened to music agree that the experience possesses physical attributes similar to other human sensations;  and its composition and structure shares qualities with common constructs of society/humanity.

Take for example the oft remarked observation that, “The music washed over the audience”. Music possesses qualities much like water. Music has peaks and troughs like the movement of water. People relate the moments of quiet and calm punctuated by quickened tempo and climatic crescendo to the tides of water. Continuity in music mimics the continual motion of water.

People often liken the composition and writing of music to the different constructive exercises, the notes and melody of a song must be timed, placed, and positioned to create a cohesive tune. This practice is much like the interweaving of fabrics and threads when creating clothing. Similarly composers must properly utilize different sections of his symphony to piece together a concerto. Each section has qualities and strengths that when tempered with others work much like the building blocks of a super structure.

Music also has a very visceral mental/physiological stimulation for listeners. Listening to music (that one enjoys) has many neural responses; many of which are similar to the sensation of touch (due to not only the actual air pressure variation, but the mental connections associated with sound) and genuine elation. Such elation is often compared to relaxing and pleasurable sensations, similar to the feeling of water over the skin. Music illustrates the Descartes’ duality of merging physical sensations of the body to mental and ethereal experiences of the mind.

Music is in many ways an abstract experience, for listeners with limited understanding of language or vocabulary it is often hard to describe what they are feeling when the listen to music. This confusion leads to simpler and more relatable explanations for music.

That often means using other real life examples as a comparison or metaphor.

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