Why music should be magical
We can over analyse music. Maybe that’s not so surprising when you consider that the theories of music and of sound production borrow so heavily from maths and physics, and many mathematicians are also keen musicians. But somehow that misses the point.
Music is much more about emotion. It has the capability to really move us, not because we are fascinated by the scales, the harmonic frequencies, the beats per minute or the time signatures but because those things – plus the occasional mystery magical ingredient – have the ability to make us relaxed, tense, happy, mournful, angry, defiant or proud. Sometimes many of these at the same time or in the same piece.
And because music is about emotion, that also explains why so many people who are not interested in mathematics or musical theory can still make wonderful music.
Where does the magic come from?
This section of Instrumentality is, of course, entirely hypocritical because I’m using analysis to try and reveal the mysteries of emotion. But hey, it’s worth a try. So what is it that makes some music so magical and, conversely, why does music without these ingredients just pass us by?
So far, I’ve identified the following potential sources of magic:
Timbre: Some of the sounds produced by instruments and singers are beautiful in themselves, almost regardless of what notes are played.
Descents: From Bach to the Beatles, some of the most beautiful music of all time has employed a descending bass line.
Suspensions: One of the great sources of beauty in a melody is when a note is held over to the following chord, creating a brief dissonance until the harmony resolves.
Harmony: The search for that lost, perfect chord that will melt us on the spot has been going on for centuries. So, what have people come up with so far?
Motifs: Sometimes you’re listening to a piece of music and something in the melody just stops you in your tracks. Why should that be? What makes a magical motif?
Anthems: There’s nothing like a big chorus to get an emotional response from your listener. Here are some classic examples and some that may be new to you.