On July 18th, Dave Fischer and I facilitated a salon focused on music, specifically lyrics and their connections to existential themes. The inspiration for the salon sprung from Dave’s life-long love of music and lyrics, and a desire to connect in these ways with others. The format of the salon allowed each of us who wanted to to come forward with meaningful lyrics and songs, and we engaged in a discussion around the significance that the songs held to each of us. It was an opportunity to share what has touched us, and the meaning that music holds in many of our lives.
One of the themes that arose was around the nature of sad songs being the most meaningful. Many of us shared a common draw toward music that, by nature, expresses feelings of longing, grief, and pain. Yet we shared in the sense that sad music often does not make us feel “sad” so much as more connected and whole. Music, and art, is a place from which many of us can connect to the painful aspects of being human, which can ultimately be connecting.
Many of us also noticed themes about processing death, a very existential theme. Many songs we love also involve an element of story—of connecting with a character, be it the artist or a metaphorical character, that conveys relatable narratives.
We also noticed themes of intimacy, vulnerability, and isolation. And again, made note of the sweet irony that it is often these more melancholic songs that have a way of uplifting or grounding us, if only just to recognize the shared nature of our human condition, and appreciation for the artists who put themselves out there in facilitation of us feeling more connected to each other through pain.
We also spoke of the theme of listening to music over time, and growing with it. We shared the sense that certain songs and albums bring us back saliently to the times in our lives when we were especially drawn to them. They take us back to what it felt like to be in those moments. Music has such deep emotional resonance, it often brings forth distinct memories.
There was also the theme of non-dualism—of coming to terms with darkness and light, pain and joy, love and loss. There were themes of accepting and embracing disparate parts of ourselves, the pain and joy of letting our inner lights shine, and contemplating mystery and awe.
Among the artists we shared with each other included Leonard Cohen, Sufjan Stevens, Pink Floyd, The Flaming Lips, and the Sex Pistols. Participants also brought in poets, like Rilke. Many of us reflected feeling connected to deep emotional places within us both when we listened to and shared the music that has had meaning in our lives.
Notably, it was rather easy to find existential themes amidst the music we shared, perhaps because it is so often through art that we connect to the feelings and sensations that exist in the language of emotion.
For so many of us, music has helped us feel less alone in the moments of our existence that can otherwise feel the most isolating, and it has had a role in our development as humans. Music has grounded us throughout our lives. Music has been an outlet and a friend, something and someone, to feel understood by and a way to process the existential themes that imbue our nature.