An open plea to you, the unintentional soul doctor.
by Kylie Foster
I was still laughing as I got into the car. I could feel hot blood and crimson red in my cheeks from smiling so much. The door closed and I took the obligatory 1.5 minutes to plug in my phone and make sure I put on just the right playlist, using shuffle of course because I’m no savage. Melodies came through my car speakers as I zoomed out of my friends aggressively suburban area, still hearing all of our laughter ringing in my ears.
Song after song, mile after mile, my night drive soundtrack only maintaining my emotional high.
And then that song came on. From the first note, I knew exactly what it was. From the first word, I could feel the sting in my soul as it brought me back. Back to a place I’d tried so hard to forget.
In those 3 minutes and 42 seconds, a tidal wave poured out of of my heart (and my eyes) after I spent hours laughing, smiling, singing, and being in sheer joy with people I loved.
All because of a song.
Sure, yeah, it was the memories and the associations that spurred my response but all of that came to me, in a moment where it was lightyears away from my mind, because of one song.
It’s no secret that music is powerful. You know it, I know it, everyone knows it. That’s why music is such a crucial part of entertainment.
Have you ever seen a scary movie without music? Not all that scary. Have you ever walked into a music-less bar? Weird. Have you had to listen to some dude in a tiny tank top grunting in the corner of LA Fitness because you forgot your headphones and now your whole workout is ruined because there’s no music to drown it out?
Music has the ability to make people feel, to remember, to dream, to wish, and to hope. Music has the ability to take us from highest high to Middle Earth level lows within seconds. Music actually has the same properties and power as language does. Crazy enough, our brains actually process hearing music the same way that we process hearing language and words. The way that we process not just what people say but how they say it is actually the exact same as how we process music and melody.
This is the work of what are called “mirror neurons”. Example: you see someone yawning, then you yawn. Mirror neurons. This is why we cry at movies, why we sneeze when other people sneeze, why we feel super cringey watching that episode of The Office when Kevin spills his chili everywhere… The neurons in our brain fire as if we are actually experiencing it for ourselves.
Let me rephrase for emphasis because this a big deal: When we listen to music, our brains work the same way as if we were listen to someone talking directly to us.
When you create music, in terms of the science of the mind, you are opening up an intimate, personal conversation with the listener.
I don’t say this to flex my psychological knowledge or to give you a research paper you didn’t ask for. As a writer, a musician and a consumer myself, I say this to you because I want to forewarn you and excite you about your responsibility. As a creator, you have the ability to be a heart psychiatrist through sound. You have the ability to reach through someone’s speakers, press the buttons of their soul and make someone feel.
You can take someone who feels alone and give them a friend who understands.
You can take someone who feels their own sadness and lend them comfort in yours.
You can take someone from hurting to beginning to heal.
You can take someone from being down to dancing through their house, singing into the spatula, and tripping over the rug. (Just me?)
You can take someone stuck in gray and throw them into clouds of color.
The way that you weave your melodies together, the words that you choose, the art that you pour yourself into… it all has the power to manipulate people’s hearts. Being a creator is not just about pushing the boundaries of sound and genre (which is so badass and so welcome here), it’s about creating experiences.
Music is the world’s most universal principle and we get to be a part of that.
We get to be a thread that weaves people together. We get to hold a persons hand without being with them. We get to literally change the state of their mind. We get to let people know they are seen and known and understood. We get to sit in their spaces and feel their feelings and have a conversation with them.
I don’t say any of this to burden you, but you excite you. To inspire you. To remind you of the power of what you do, what you create.
You, the unintentional soul doctor, can change the world through the hearts and minds of those who are lucky enough to hear your work.
Man oh man… what a level of responsibility but my god what a privilege.