Music is not a descriptive art. Unlike painting or photography, it cannot carve the lines of a city or display the face of a stranger in a crowd. Music cannot paint with pictures, instead it is forced to evocate or to suggest. And when you have a very precise mental picture of what you want to illustrate in music, it becomes a great challenge to express it with sounds.
But some musicians have been very successful in evocating an atmosphere. So successful, in fact, that when we listen to their work, we can’t help but “see” what they suggest.
Example one: Beethoven, 6th Symphony. You don’t have to listen to the whole thing (Who’s got that kind of time?), just one or two minutes should do it.
Here’s a link:
Did you hear it? Did you hear the birds? I know, right. He put birds in there. I love those birds! It’s beautiful, isn’t it?
I remember listening to that for the first time. My eyes were opened wide. That’s when I understood that music will have an impact on my life. I could “see” what Beethoven suggested, and, bonus! my heart, my emotions were participating in the process of “seeing”.
I’ll give you another example, one that we can relate to. In Chicago we are about to enter a very cold week and I know a song (Just about 3 minutes long this one) for the freezing days ahead.
Evelynn Glennie did a whole album called “Winter wonderland”. It’s gorgeous! Not complicated at all to listen to. Oh, and if you don’t know about her, she’s from Scotland, she’s a percussionist, she tours the world when there’s no pandemic, she plays with the most prestigious symphonic orchestras and she is deaf. Yes, you heard me. She shares the same particularity as Beethoven. Evelynn Glennie cannot hear the way most of us do. Yet, she has found, just like Beethoven, a great way to express life with sounds. Those two are magicians, I tell you. Because while they evocate the pictures of winter or the one of a beautiful pastoral scenery, they do so without the help of a camera or a canvas. They don’t even use lyrics. They grab us by the heart and takes us on a journey without saying a word.