Friday, April 3, 2009

Mum the Words

Picture a concert. Perhaps one you’ve been to or one that you wish you had gone to. What did you imagine? Your favorite band? The excited crowd around you? The body-moving volume of the music? What kind of music is the concert featuring? Rock? Rap? Country? What about instrumental?

Music is something I absolutely adore, and instrumental music is like candy to my ears. Popular music has some good qualities to it (goodness, I always have my radio going), but instrumental music, or the music without words and mostly involving string and brass instruments, is truly something special. Now, most people I talk to will listen to instrumental music if they are working on homework, but I wonder how many listen to it beyond that time. The longest playlist on my IPOD is instrumental music, and I even have other playlists devoted to soundtracks. Instead of David Cook or Barlow Girl playing, I will oftentimes listen to the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack on the way home. To me, instrumental music has an essence that can never be captured by a lead voice, and I hope to share this with others.

To start with, turn up your volume and listen to these songs by Jennifer Thomas, Casting Crowns, Nuttin’ but Strings, Rihanna, Steve Stevens, Bela Barto, and my favorite composer, Hans Zimmer (you will have to push the "play" button for some). Did you get enveloped by the sound? Did you tense when the notes clashed? Did your heart pound when the tempo raced and volume blared? What about in the softer parts? Did you feel deep when the sound turned heavy and melancholy? Did you feel carefree when the melody turned joyful and even quirky? Words can be beautiful, inspiring, and a great part of music, but I feel that you tie down music the moment you put words to it. With instrumental, music is free to move around and inside you; it can mean anything you want it to. It can awaken passions and dreams. It can set you free.

What I also love about instrumental music is its life! To start with, there is the work and passions that goes into a piece that is so moving. Some suites are as long as or longer than 30 minutes. Like an organism, notes turn into phrases, and phrases turn into movements, which then turn into the piece. This piece is also divided among dozens of instruments, and these instruments are divided among dozens of people. These musicians play their parts, and together breathe life into the song, the story, the painting, the spirit of music.

I still haven’t given this music justice. Words can’t describe fully the passion and life in instrumental music. It is like trying to fully appreciate a play by just reading it in a book. It’s like caging a wild animal instead of admiring the beast in its natural setting. Instrumental music is supposed to be experienced and allowed to live.


  1. Instrumental music is so awesome, but it is so hard to be appealing to the mainstream. Sure Rush and a few other bands have kickin' instrumentals, but why do you think that this sort of music has yet to be really made into something as easily digestable as pop music?

  2. I think it is the beat. Pop music is so easy to dance and go crazy to. Instrumental music can have a great beat, but it is more about the journey of the song rather than getting you up and dancing. You also can't sing along to instrumental...

  3. You are very much not alone in your love for instrumental music; though I am drawn more to classical works I definitely enjoy newer music as well. There is more to be said for what you have to work to imagine in music than what you are given in lyrics. I think instrumental music gives us the ability to be better active listeners, to be part of the music. This is why there are areas of study such as music therapy. What do you think can be most gained by instrumental music?