Music is a powerful force upon our feelings, and I would like to see more research done on the brain chemistry of this. Music does not simply express our feelings. It can enhance them, alter them, and bring them back to us, too.
To say that music expresses our feelings suggests to me the ideas of reflecting and communicating our feelings. When I am happy, I tend to play music in a major key, music that is upbeat, literally and figuratively—happy music. When I am sad, I tend to play music in a minor key, music that is sad or perhaps contemplative. Sometimes I express myself by playing CDs, and sometimes I express myself by playing the piano. I am in either case reflecting my mood. I can also communicate my mood to others with music. If my family came home to rock and roll on the stereo, I imagine they knew I was feeling lighthearted and energetic. If they came home to hear some very sad Nina Simone playing, they probably knew I was low for some reason. Back in the day when there were jukeboxes everywhere, I can imagine a few boyfriends for whom I should have played "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do" to communicate something. This does not mean, of course, that every musical choice we make is laden with meaning, but there is no question that our selections can and do often reflect or communicate our feelings.
Music also intensifies what we feel. A sad song will make me feel sadder. A happy song will make me feel happier. Today, with our playlists, we can put together a collection of music to enhance any mood we like. Sports teams have "fight songs." The national anthem intensifies our feelings of patriotism, as does "This Land Is Your Land." If I am feeling energetic and want to clean my house, music can enhance that feeling of energy, at least for a while. I find show tunes—for example, from Chicago—to be energetic and thus energizing.
Romantic songs enhance our feelings of love, and hymns enhance our feelings of spirituality.
Music is a way of altering our emotions, too. If I do not want to give in to a sad mood, I can play music that will change my mood. When people go to a supermarket, they might be angry, lonely, or sad. But the music playing can and often does alter their moods. There have been times when I have gone to see a musical and though I was not in a particularly good mood when I arrived—grumbling, for example, over crowds and parking—I was elated by the time I left because of the music. Concerts have this effect upon people, too, but you can make yourself happy at home with your musical selections. You can prime yourself to be in a mood with music.
Most of us have a soundtrack to our lives, and hearing anything from this soundtrack gives us instant access to many of our feelings and memories of the past. People with Alzheimer's remember music when much else has been lost, and it helps put them in touch with a few memories. When I hear a particular song from a particular era, it conjures up for me where I was, what I was doing, and whom I was with. The Vietnam War had a soundtrack, which was the music of the late sixties and early seventies. Vietnam War veterans will tell you that Jimi Hendrix takes them back to where they were. I would imagine every war has its own soundtrack.
I personally think that music is an essential part of a good life. It not only expresses our feelings, but also it can alter and enhance them. And it is like a book of memories, too, bringing back our past to us.