Even from the earliest days of human cultural development, music has always been associated with feelings. Different scales, chords, and harmonies can make you feel very different emotions. As a musician, I often get an insight into how music affects emotions, as learning how to evoke specific ones is often a key part in learning how to be a very effective musician.

As a composer, you have many tools in your toolbox to evoke certain emotions. For instance, a brass choir fanfare might bring triumphant thoughts, while a small woodwind choir might bring about fantastic, whimsical thoughts. A sad violin solo might lead to thoughts of lonelyness, or maybe sorrow and loss. The style of the music very much dictates the emotional response of the audience.

A Real Example

I recently had the privlege to play Julie Giroux’s wonderful new symphony The Blue Marble with the Central Washington University Wind Ensemeble for our annual WindFest band festival. With 5 performances over 4 days, I grew very fond of the piece. It is definitely one of my favourite wind band pieces, along with David Maslanka’s Give Us This Day and Symphony No. 4 and Frank Ticheli’s Angels in the Architechture. What I find most interesting about this piece is that it is designed to work in many different forms - each movement can stand on it’s own, with or without the video component.

About the Video…

The Blue Marble was written to go alongside a video that is synchronized to the music. In my opinion, the video maximises the emotional effectiveness of the symphony. The music itself already has the power to bring some very strong emotions, and the addition of the imagery, especially in the thrid movement, really brings out the emotions.

As an example, the opening act of the third movement features very intense low brass figures, with dissonant harmonies and frantic upper woodwind figures. The musical soundscape alone brings along feelings of dread and uncertainty. The accompanying video features a giant meteor hurtling straight towards earth, enhancing those feelings. A highlight of the opening of the third movement is when in the video, there is a scene of animals being hunted down on (presumably) the african plains. This scene is accompanied by a very strong horn riff, that leads into some intense woodwind trills and an equally aggressive saxophone feature.

During the course of the final movement, the mood and feelings of the music shifts from violent to peacful to introspective. When listening to the entire symphony, it is very likely that you would get emotional by the end of the piece. I always believe that as a performer, I am the most affected by the music, since I am the one making it. At the end of our final perfomance, what is perhaps the last time I’m likely to play this symphony, I will admit that I almost cried. Music is very emotional for many people, and to be able to make that music and affect people is what makes being a musician so special to me.

If you want to listen to one of my performances, you can find it on YouTube here. Again, if you want to support the CWU Wind Ensemble on our trip to South Korea, you can donate here. Thank you so much for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful day! As always, remember that you matter more than you think you do.