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Exploring the Power of Music in Prose and Poetry

Linda Crampton is a former teacher who enjoys reading and creative writing. She likes classical literature, fantasy, myth, and poetry.

Listening to music can transport us to new places and can sometimes be a form of time travel.

Listening to music can transport us to new places and can sometimes be a form of time travel.

A Powerful Connection

The link between music, mood, and memory fascinates me. I have experienced the link and its power multiple times in my life. The musical notes on a piece of paper can sometimes become something magical when they are played by skilled musicians. They are often capable of triggering intense emotions, which are frequently pleasant but may be sad, as I describe below in relation to real life. My poem focuses on the effect of music on a man who is trying to escape from a problem from his past. It's a fictional tale but is related to a power that really exists.

The character depicted in the poem is living with the “half a soul” mentioned in the title because he will not allow himself to remember a major conflict that needs to be examined. He has become an expert in suppressing the memories linked to the conflict if they try to emerge. He knows that he was the guilty party in the argument, and he has recently discovered that the other person involved in the situation has died. He doesn’t know how to resolve the situation that created the memory and that now seems permanently unsolvable. In a way, he is psychologically incomplete because of his refusal to acknowledge and deal with an important part of his life.

Music has the power to go beyond the notes.

Music has the power to go beyond the notes.

Some Potential Effects of Music on Emotions

In real life, people may be able to predict the effect of music on their minds from their prior experience, but sometimes an effect is sudden, strong, and unpredictable. For me, this is part of the fascination of music—to reveal the unexpected.

Many people can probably remember times when music cheered them up, inspired them, gave them new ideas, or at least allowed them to forget their problems for a while. Listening to music often does one or more of these things for me. I remember an experience that created the opposite effect, however. My beloved dog had recently died. I was watching a television show that was accompanied by music with lyrics. The tune, the nature of the singer's voice, and the sombre lyrics combined to create strong emotions and tears in me as it triggered memories of my dog and her life. The effect lasted for some time but eventually disappeared as I became able to deal with my dog's departure.

Researchers have explored peak emotional responses to music, including the production of chills and tears. Though more research needs to be performed and the idea may not apply to everyone, the evidence suggests that the production of tears when listening to music can sometimes have a cathartic effect. Music certainly has power, whatever its effects.

A frozen field can be an interesting place to see and can sometime be symbolic.

A frozen field can be an interesting place to see and can sometime be symbolic.

Setting the Scene in the Poem

The poem below begins in a scene much like that shown in the photo above. A cold sun hangs over a frozen field. Scattered trees at the edge of the field obscure the view of a nearby village. Occasionally, sounds from the village penetrate the silence. A traveller moves across the field, bypassing the village. He wants no contact with people or their activity. Despite his desire for isolation, he is about to encounter the power of music to awaken memories and the value of community.

Music Meets Half a Soul

Through biting cold of snow

pierced by sparkling ice,

the traveller pushed on

in search of sanctuary.

Music from a distant choir

floated into sound,

a joyful hymn of praise.

He knelt upon the frozen grass

in honour of the past.

The music swelled in power

and ripples struck his mind,

disturbing long-forgotten memories,

and sparking into life

the flames of ecstasy.

In daring wonderment

he tried to touch the sound,

to communicate with love.

Instead the voices ebbed

and then the music stopped.

He rose with difficulty

and viewed the icy scene

with sadness and with fear,

the sharpened edge of guilt

preparing to attack.

He felt the hate within,

pain's effort to expand,

and struggled fiercely in the fight

to squash the shrill demand.

Sickened by the past

he found his old ally:

the power to repel,

then pushed guilt deep within,

resistance frightening.

He shivered at success,

his foe subdued but not destroyed,

but then the music surged

and could not be denied.

Kindly threads of strength

spun by vocal notes

probed his mind with love

and pulled forgotten times of joy

from deep within his brain

and a life of innocence.

The threads became like ropes

to save him from despair.

He let them pull him in

towards the village and the choir

and their melodies of hope.

Inside the crowded church

a woman slid along a pew

and beckoned him to sit

and listen to the choir.

Powerful songs of joy

sung to him and all,

a web of glorious sounds

connecting everyone in grace

He felt his mind relax

and memories bubbled up

no longer pushed away.

Acknowledging his guilt,

he accepted life and hope.

Music as the guide

and perhaps the One,

whatever it might be,

a gateway into life,

hope richer than despair

and a comforter from pain.

© 2022 Linda Crampton

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