It’s a fairly simple question, but everyone answers differently. Obviously, we are all distinct, unique human beings, but what does music really mean to the individual? How can such a seemingly insignificant form of entertainment affect so many people, in such radical and transformative ways? I asked several students at our high school just that- what does music mean to you?

An overwhelming number of responses used the words “self expression” in their characterization of music, denoting how to each person, music fits differently, molding to a variety of personalities, opinions, and experiences. Some took it even a step further and explained how music is a way to express and process emotion, or sometimes just a way to sit with your feelings. Evidently, music is versatile and allows for some to evaluate and others to heighten their mood. Some respondents even associate music with colors, the rainbow, and the word fun, illustrating how there is such a complex range of emotions available to the individual though music. 

Furthermore, many students connected music with memory. For some, music is a way to remember times lost, whether good or bad, and reminisce about how things used to be. Some used words like “extraventgent” to describe the sort of longing and “nostalgia” that music can evoke. Many described music as denotative of specific chapters or milestones in their lives that told the story of who they are though something more than words. Ultimately, this association of memory and music is interesting because it allows for us to see how unique each individual experience is with sometimes even the same song. 

Another common theme in responses was this sentiment that music serves as an escape- an escape from a variety of things. Reality, emptiness, the future, everyday life, headaches, and sometimes just the world around us are all things that music serves to placate, or at least for a moment subdue. For many music heals. For many it is a way to forget the weight of exhaustion, and the burden of unfulfillment. In this sense, music is something that lifts a lot of us up and out of the darkness, pushing us on into new opportunities and exciting experiences. And for many, music is the reason that they keep going. 

Lastly, in the fullest sense of the word, music is relatable. It is a collection of shared experiences that reaches more than just a selected few, instead, it is transformative depending on the listener, and speaks in different ways to so many people. Responses highlighted words like “comfort” and “relief,” denoting that the very nature of music is subjected to the personality and needs of the individual. Even more so- “music means dancing,” evoking a picture that is so simple yet powerful, for music has the ability to transcend the lives of so many, meeting them exactly where they are, whether that means they want to dance, laugh, cry, or be angry. Music, it seems, is one of the very few things in this world that will not judge you, will not impose its prejudices upon you, and simply allows you to be. It is quite amazing, though, that music means so many different things. 

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Written by

Hannah Van Essen

Hannah Van Essen, junior, loves reading and writing. She is particularly excited to further her own creative writing skills this year. Hannah’s favorite piece of literature is the novel Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. She is currently the Assistant Director of OLu’s King Author and anticipating a fantastic premiere.