How to begin a manifesto? Fiery-veined passion propelled me to grasp for words that equalled Chopin’s effect. Then, having failed that, I scrambled for pictures; moving pictures, still pictures, pictures of girls posing as dryads, twirling ballerinas—I even enlisted the help of one Joe Wright, filmmaker extraordinaire. All of this, to no avail. My folly, I realised with aching clarity on this cold winter afternoon with only his music for company, stems chiefly from the vain belief that the impact of music on the listener can be replicated by other means. But what a musical composition conveys can only be conveyed by that musical composition alone. Even the most masterfully executed of choreographies pale in comparison, a half-fulfilled dream of limbs and torsos matching, reacting, moving to the divine string of notes devised by man. And what a string of notes; what soaring soulful sound! Attempt to express music so superior in any other way and all is but lost in translation.
Debussy once said that music is not an expression of the feeling but the feeling itself, and in this simple summation lies the truth and beauty of all music. As the singular most powerful form of artistic expression its emotional impact is universal and unparalleled. Men and women, the elderly and the very young, the richest and the poorest—though preferences can, and usually do, differ—all could be reduced to tears by the sound of the same score or song.
Music, by virtue of its ability to express human emotion via sound alone, is an equaliser, an eraser of class and similar categories, unlike prose and poetry, the pleasures of which tend to be accessible only to the educated and well-read. The aesthetic and communicative aspects of art here are similarly exclusive, artworks being appreciated and interpreted in the most in-depth manner by the likes of art students, art scholars and other professionals in that milieu, endowed with varying degrees of cultural capital attained from education.
Music, then, is unique. One need not a degree, nor upper-class upbringing, neither fame nor fortune, to feel peaceful melancholy at the sound of Chopin, faux-nostalgia for Old Russia (if you are not, in fact, Russian) upon hearing Vladimir Troshin’s “Moscow Nights,” or ecstatic, woe-trampling confidence whenever they play “Heroes” by David Bowie. All that music requires is the human capacity to feel.