Music and Self-Awareness

How my music can make people more content and self-aware

Do you have moments of silence throughout the day, or do you fill the time with constant sound? What kind of noise fills your mind—music you love and know, or just something to break the silence? Whether you know it or not, the types of music you listen to spark different ways of thinking, and certain compositions can boost one’s self-awareness.

I’d like to explore the difference between music that is entertaining and music that draws you into your deeper self. Of course there is plenty of ‘entertaining’ music that can also edify you in many ways. What I’m exploring here is music that uses space and silence as a window into you. As musicians, we shape and tailor the sounds at the edges of silence. One thing that qualifies the music I’m talking about is that it respects you and actually is listening to you. What do I mean by this? It’s music that is played like conversation and comes out to meet you halfway. It’s not too loud; it beckons you a bit. Think classical, flamenco, and world beats. The subtlety will stir your imagination and you can personalize the experience in your own imagination. Entertaining music is usually easy and driving, controlling the moment with strong vocals and predictable choruses. These types of songs can act as a distraction from your life as opposed to being present and listening to your inner thoughts.

My theory is that we live in silence. The self sits in the center of our thought and memory house, in the chair of our physical presence. Music that is aware of the gates of silence can cause you to see more of where you really live. I have been composing for about 20 years and I gravitate towards compositions that are introspective. I use a natural pulse— rhythms that are somehow in tune with nature, a wave, the wind, a branch. Balance is key, but metronomic rhythms sometimes seem unnatural to me.

There is a tremendous amount of beauty in nature that includes us as people. The individual essence that we are to the world should be acknowledged, explored, and available to be enjoyed. By listening to music that helps you be with yourself, you can expand with time into more self-awareness. According to a 2013 study published in BioMed Research International, music can help Alzheimer’s patients become more self-conscious and improve overall cognition. Complicated melodies allow one’s brain to think critically and decipher what is being heard internally, sparking introspection within the mind.

Imagine going into a room in an empty old castle—at first there is no light, it’s dark and uncomfortable, you don’t want to stay. You have to figure out how to shed light by finding a candle or a window. You’ll begin to see that it’s not just a room in a castle: there are no walls, but a transparent ceiling to the stars and beyond, and all the power and beauty can be explored. This type of journey into one deeper self through music can eventually give you prospective on your own personality, psychology and any areas of being in denial, ultimately improving your relationships. Music that is constant and rhythmic is primarily entertaining, whereas music that uses space has the potential to open a window into a deeper place of self. My compositions can be a window with its use of space and balanced play with the natural silence that encompasses us.

Here are three contrasting examples of music that I recommend for a soulful and emotional journey: The Nocturnes by Chopin, Victorialand by The Cocteau Twins, and my first album of original compositions Angelica, An Invitation to Dream.

I don’t want to imply that going out to be entertained is lesser than staying in and being introspective. And, of course, this concept is strictly my subjective opinion. I realize there are people who say that hard music with fast drumming or screaming vocals is meditative for them. My response is that this theory is simply about being in a still place in order to listen to yourself; that heightened senses and expansive listening sheds light on new spaces within ourselves. My hope is that through the quiet power of music and other pure art forms, we can know ourselves more deeply and therefore be more interesting to ourselves and the people around us. Music that inspires contemplation supports the idea of being with yourself, being still, and not running from your thoughts if you are feeling alone.