Science of Music: Literary Interludes

Great readings on why music moves us

| November-December 2008

These excerpts are part of a package on the psychological power of music. For an exploration into the science of sad music, read Blue Notes: The life-giving link between mood and musical expression.

Beyond Words

Part of the magic of music for me is that it can evoke emotions that you can’t even have otherwise, emotion there isn’t even a word for. I remember when I was a little bitty kid hearing the Platters singing “Harbor Lights.” I was from Lubbock; I didn’t know what a harbor was. But the melody, the sound of the voices, gave me a feeling of pleasant longing that had nothing to do with anything that had yet happened to me. I wasn’t old enough to have had sad love affairs.
—musician Jimmie Dale Gilmore to writer Nicholas Dawidoff, from In the Country of Country: People and Places in American Music (Pantheon, 1997)


Death Songs