Let The Music Play

The Desperate Expat Wife has one recurring New Year’s resolution – to listen more to music.

Years ago, when she was younger, she somewhat surprisingly decided she’d try a reiki session. The first thing the therapist said to her – she hadn’t even had time to stretch out on that bench – was «You must listen more to music!», in a «this-is-so-obvious-why-on-earth-don’t-you-use-music-more» tone of voice.

It was and is obvious, and it’s not as if she didn’t know, but how did that therapist get it? Was it an energy thing? Or a cheap trick, kind of like «you will soon receive some good news» – after all betting that music is important to most people is quite safe.

Music means so much to so many at different levels: First love and last, mood changer, mood enhancer, ice breaker, friend maker, community creator, date helper, emotions emancipator….feel free to add roles in the comment field.

Music means so much to so many. Photo: Lisbeth Ganer

Music means so much to so many. Photo: Lisbeth Ganer

But I’ve often wondered, how did it all start?

There is no specific answer to this famous question, as music most likely began with singing, clapping and drumming with hands on whatever could be drummed on, and there are no records of that. However, it is believed that music as we know it was part of the cultural explosion that took place between at least 60,000 and 30,000 years ago. Music was also a means of survival, evolutionary scientists believe, as it helped people coordinate emotions, communicate and form group membership – music made the people come together.

This very early example shows how music is more than music, it is social communication, starting with lullabies. Darwin believed that music was important for choosing a partner, much like the mating sounds of animals. The ability to make music was proof of coordination, determination and good hearing – good genes to pass on. Go figure, groupies!

And research does show that genetics are important for musicality, and specific genes related to music and language make humans susceptible to be musical. However, even if genetics count for about 50 % of our musicality, we need consistent exposure to a musical environment to activate our musical genes.

Different people feel differently about music, ranging from a background thing to a necessity of life without which we couldn’t function.  And different personality types prefer different kinds of music. The same song will have different effects depending on the mood you’re already in when you start listening to it. Also, we respond more strongly to music we know and have chosen to listen to. New music will more rarely provoke the strongest emotions, although that might happen as well. Try this for instant smiles:

It always feels so good to hear good music

This is again linked to context; we tend to try to pick the right music for whatever it is we’re doing at the moment, and the extent to which that activity allows us to pay attention to the music. Music interacts with our lives, quite simply.

An online music forum confirms this importance. The question was «what does music mean to you»:

“I couldn’t imagine a world with no music the world would literally die or go mad I believe.”

“The barriers we put up around ourselves come down when we participate in music, be it listening, dancing, playing, whatever.”

” I feel like there is a song for every situation and a genre for every part of the human mind.”

“I will be bold here and say the music I listen to defines me as a person.”

With new technology, we have access to countless musical worlds virtually everywhere. YouTube or Spotify will make suggestions based on your chosen music, you click on it and it will take you to more music and more music and off you go. But do we go there? Is there enough time in our busy lives? Or even if we’re not all that busy, do we take time? After all, there must be ’bout a million ways to add some music to your day…

This takes us right back to the Desperate Expat Wife and her resolution. She will add more music to her day. The music she knows and loves that has all these effects on her. And although she’s not aiming to keep up with new music the way she did when she was young, she’ll explore more. There’s too much music out there not to. And to help her accomplish that, she’ll share some of her favourite discoveries on Clew. Stay tuned.


Text by Unni Holtedahl, photo by Lisbeth Ganer, February 2015ext



  1. Love that song!! Music is happiness to me. Music makes sense of my longing for my home country. And music makes sense of whatever country I am currently in, and the language spoken there. Xavier Naidoo, for example made me love the German language when we lived in Munich. His song : “(Sie ist nicht) von dieser Welt” is a favorite… 🙂


  2. Making sense of where you live and where you sometimes long to be – and of languages too – nice!

    Liked by 1 person

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