27 November 2009

Sad Songs v. Happy Songs

Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.
~ Victor Hugo

As I mentioned in my last post, I debuted two new songs on Saturday at my annual St. Cecilia's Arts Festival. I have often been accused by my mother and at least one good friend, that I compose too much melancholic music. Even one of my closest friends and supporters joked after the show: "Wow. Between the Rain is your non-melancholic, happy song!?" I retorted that I had never said is was not melancholic ~ just that it was positive and happy in the sense that it was not about wallowing in one's misery or crying over the lost love. Between the Rain is a take on the theme expressed in songs such as Bless the Broken Road by Rascall Flatts ~ every heart break we go through opens us up to receiving the one we are meant for.

Another friend shot me an email a couple of days later and suggested that I try sitting at the piano when I am in a good mood and something wonderful has just happened and "see what comes out." Sigh. Well, I know these friends love me dearly and also admire and enjoy my music. And I am sure they do not want me to become trapped in my own talent.

But after reading that latest piece of advice, I began thinking [always dangerous!]. And it occurred to me, that as I mentioned in my last post, the artist not only works through his own suffering and brokenness through his art, but also enables the receiver of that art to work through theirs as well. Good art is almost always I would venture to say, universal. The audience should not always be conscious that they are listening in to someone else's story. They should absorb it and think "That is exactly how I feel [or felt]! Only I didn't know how to express it!"

That is not to say that any art that purely introspective cannot also do that, it is just that I believe that part of being an artist is giving the voiceless a medium to shout and sing and cry and basically get in touch with their innermost emotions and brokenness. And this leads me back to my friend's comment about writing "happy songs." Let me hasten to assure you, dear reader, I am not an angsty, grunge-esque artist. I do not wallow in self-pity nor do I uphold suffering for its own sake. But neither do I just compose music that sounds more like it is on Valium than the natural high of life.

I have nothing against so-called "happy music." But I wonder ~ does the audience really need my help processing good emotions? Happy memories? I know, I know! Perhaps they do. But so far, I find that my audience responds more to the music that speaks to their deepest fears, profound sadness and heartaches. And even when I am offering something more positive, there is still an element of the bittersweet. Which is how it should be, I think. However, that is just my opinion and perhaps I do need to break out of my minor key comfort zone.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

2 comments:

christopher said...

"The audience should not always be conscious that they are listening in to someone else's story. They should absorb it and think "That is exactly how I feel [or felt]! Only I didn't know how to express it!" - Excellent point! The same goes for the visual medium. The artist shouldn't be the one that's self-absorbed if he wants to speak to people.

King Alfred said...

I like what you said when you asked, "Does the audience really need my help processing good emotions?"
I started to comment, but it became a post of its own: An Apologia for Sad Songs. Cheers, M!