Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Power of Music

What is it in music that causes an ‘awakening’ of strange feelings? After all it is just a bunch of sound waves of different frequencies and different wavelengths – if I may put it lightly in a scientific way. And this ‘First principle’ of sound (that it is just a vibration) was jarred upon me when a family friend of us mentioned it matter-of-factly when we were watching a Carnatic classical music vocal concert.

A full fledged Carnatic classical vocal musical concert – as you may know – contains one or more of accompaniments such as violin, Mridungam, Ghatam, Flute, Veena, etc. in addition to the main artist’s vocal ability. When you break it down, it is all mere sound waves. And these mix of different sound waves (with differing frequency and wavelengths) bearing down in each of audience ears – when each artist gives out the best in him or her - evokes these strange ‘wow’ effects, these ‘shabash’ pat-on-the-back gestures, these goosebumps (check out the video in this link and the reaction by live audience) that finally culminates in an applause by one and all which is truly amazing!

And if it is not just about the ‘complimenting’ effect of the sound waves. Dr Kunnakudi had carried out a musical program to bring forth rain by the natural power of music. There was also an article I had read about how music was played to save a person from a fatal disease. With such powers within these ‘magical, mystical sound waves’, it is hardly surprising to note how easily one gets transported to a different era just by listening to songs of some movies – the ambience which would have etched into one’s memories.

In my case, to note a few, the moment I hear any of Hum AapKe Hain Kaun? songs, I get transported to a distinguished (full-blown) AC theatre in Hyderabad where I saw the movie with my cousins. I can still remember us in that theatre seeing the movie counting the innumerable songs. The same happens when I hear Taal se Taal Mila – the movie which some of us college friends saw in Abhinav theatre in Bangalore. Then there is Veer Zaara song. This always evokes the scene of me driving back from Niagara Falls to Boston because we colleagues heard them over and over. And then the Dil Chahtha Hai song evoke the memory of me trekking on the Kudremukha Mountain with some of my school friends. This is because we kept singing this song repeatedly while climbing the steep mountain amidst pouring rain. Each of these instances denote a different era – and however far the year goes back, the memory is always as powerful.

This theory got another dimension added when I saw my daughter listening to a particular song and reacting in a unique way. In most cases, she listens to the songs that we put in the house – be it Bollywood or devotional or Carnatic classical – and some of them she likes a lot (and she wants us to keep repeating) and the rest she just doesn’t seem interested so much – so she just carries on without bothering to listen nor ask us to stop playing. But there is this one song from Aashiqui 2 movie which automatically makes her cry – and cry real bad – whenever it happens to come on the TV. And it is not what she sees in the video of the song but it is the ‘song’ song which itself makes her heart cry out each time she hears the song. And this is the only song that she wants us to stop immediately it starts.

Once, we even experimented. She was in this real jovial mood and happy and rolling over with laughter. So we told her that we will put this song and that it was no big deal and she can keep laughing since it was just a song. She agreed. With this, I even kept her occupied with funny faces and making her laugh out loud when the song started. She was still laughing looking at me when the song was 5 seconds old and for a strange reason, she started getting tears in her eyes. She was still laughing. So I thought perhaps it was the ‘laughter tears’. Then she stopped the laughing and asked me ‘Papa, why are there tears?’ The song was now perhaps 15 seconds old since inception. That’s all. Then, all of a sudden, the dam broke and there she was wailing and crying her heart out. She ran away to mom and asked the song to be switched off. Just like other days.

Now, she hardly understands Hindi. So she does not know what is being sung. So it is not the lyrics. The experiment proved that it is not the video either, since she was not seeing the video when she started crying. It is the music and/or the way the song is sung. She is 3 years old and anyways - this is a new movie that got recently released, so there cannot be any 'bad memory' associated to this song. That leaves me with the ‘other dimension’ thought:

Assuming there is weightage in ‘Rebirth’ theory, can music evoke emotions from a prior life?


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