Living with Music
Theories and interview with Massimo Priviero
Let’s talk about living with music. Is music important in your life? Does it have the power to affect your mood? If yes, have you ever asked yourself “why”? And when do you think music is more important for you?
When you are happy and you enjoy spending time with friends? Or when you’re driving or taking a shower? Or when you’re feeling sad?
Let’s try to understand the power that music has in our life with the help of someone who made music his profession.
The beauty of music
The beauty of music lies in not making us feel alone, in sharing emotions with others, in capturing an event by associating it with a song. Music gives pleasure, arouses strong passions, stimulates memories, facilitates and reinforces social ties and gives rise to a form of communication that goes beyond words reaching to take hold of the unconscious system. This causes the listener to be able to get the highest involvement on an emotional level going beyond the semantics to reach a degree of meta communication that is decoded thanks, precisely to empathic listening.
The function of music
Listening to music can perform different functions and its contribution varies from person to person— from the degree of involvement we can establish with what we hear, from our sensitivity, from our expectations and from the needs that we try to satisfy more or less unconsciously through listening.
One of the main functions is of a “containment” type, it is often possible to look for passages we already know, the listening of which provokes an emotional regulation that evokes experiences already tried before.
This is accompanied by a “reminiscent” function that stimulates memories by associating them with listening.
More known and certainly more recognized is the “evasive” function that allows you to move away from reality momentarily and favors daydreams.
Why we listen to sad music?
“When you are happy you enjoy the music, when you are sad you understand the text” Frank Ocean
If it is easy to imagine why we take pleasure in listening to cheerful music, it is more difficult to explain why we may decide to listen to sad music.
If cheerful music has the power to rejoice, we might think that when we are sad we should want to listen to happy songs, but this almost never happens.
Why? Do we want to bask in our unhappiness?
More simply, listening to a sad song can be used as a support, the empathic effect created by listening makes us feel understood. It gives us the feeling of being able to share what makes us suffer with someone who has felt the same pain. Listening favors introspection and offers us an alternative perspective to a contingent problem.
A message that comes through music is reassuring, not aggressive, and this favors the emergence of an empathic feeling. The melancholic songs not only arouse sadness but also romantic feelings, such as emotion, which contrast a depressing effect.
The sadness that comes to us from Art, in all its forms, unlike that which may arise in daily life, is not perceived as a real threat and is therefore lived in a very different way.
The use of music is different between profane and professionals
As we have said, not everyone experiences music the same way. An even more marked difference seems to exist between the use of the music of a layman and a professional. A layman who listens to music is satisfied by establishing empathy with sounds that gives him emotional involvement, in a relaxed and immediate way.
Features that are less present in listening to a professional who, in front of the same music, will be led to examine the structure, the vocal and instrumental components, the way in which it is performed. In this case, the pleasure of listening will come, more than from the emotional component, from a technical component, no longer a passive fruition but the evaluation of the skills of the person who executed the piece and the possibility of being able to reproduce it himself.
Interview with Massimo Priviero
To better understand the power of music in our lives, we asked some questions of Massimo Priviero who, in 30 years of career, sought a type of communication based precisely on the sharing of “a certain way of being in the world” which led to a sort of identification of his audience in his songs that arouse a strong emotional exchange.
Massimo, what does music mean to you?
It’s a million dollar question! By choice, I could tell you the strongest reason of my life. Or the most emotional channel to find myself. Or even a prison I’ve been in since I was a kid and lost my keys to. Or the way in which a solitary nature seeks the way to communicate with the world. If you want, also salvation and damnation. I could go on, of course.
How much is your mood influencing what you are writing and how much can you get away from what surrounds you at that moment?
The mood is decisive. Likewise, the estrangement can be total. Equally, I speak as a musician, you also need a rational part that supports you in creativity to channel your emotion. Otherwise, you can risk being swept away by it and be unable to control your emotions.
What expectations do you think a song should meet? Also for those who create, as for those who listen, Is there an introspective search that leads to a greater self-awareness?
Music, as far as I’m concerned, is first and foremost my emotional part. But be careful! Music is essentially a fair combination of emotional and mathematical parts. It is a concept that should never be forgotten. So coming to your question what you call awareness translates into emotional and mathematical awareness.
Now, the emotion that travels with music has, in addition, a figure that we would call cultural. In the sense that a man is moved or moved by listening to Bach and looking at the infinite, but he can also do it by hearing a silly song on the radio while washing the car. In all artistic expressions and in our perception we, therefore, want to add our baggage of culture and intellectual depth which is natural but which is obviously subjective.
All this translates into an artist in one way or another to compose and to look for certain levels of involvement and communication. Without ever forgetting that a compositional act is an act of total solitude that we then try to share.
Do you find there is a different involvement in writing cheerful songs or sad songs?
No! Personally, I do not distinguish between “sad music” and “cheerful music.” I would not make a distinction on the quality of the text. Often the text only serves to make a melody sound more or less well. The writing, and in general the artistic process, is an act of loneliness and therefore the keys we touch are those more intimate that lead us to hope to “share” this act of solitude.
Do you agree that a professional and a layman have a different approach to music?
In writing there is an emotional part and a mathematics that seek balance. In the sense that I can appreciate the mathematics of music even if it doesn’t tell me anything emotionally and the opposite is also true. As for my experience, about my things I can only tell you that I often felt a song stronger than another right away, let’s say at the first writing and execution.
It will be a matter of ingredients, of evocativeness, of moments, of something that you hardly explain. But believe me, there always comes a time when you say “Here, this song flies higher than another”. At least this happens for me. In the same way, it can, of course, happen when you listen for the first time to something that you have not written yourself and that comes louder than anything else.
In your personal experience, what does your audience look for (and what does it find) when listening to your songs?
Ah, you have no idea how many times I’ve asked myself! Well, let’s say that if I had to choose a single concept I would tell you “strength to live”. In things more “rock” and more played as in things more “acoustic and solitary” you will probably find this force. Attention, I speak of the “strength to live” not of “joy to live” these are quite different concepts for me. This strength can generate sharing and a common feeling and can result in a way of making music that also becomes a way of being in the world.
About Massimo Priviero
A thirty-year career as a musician, a great attention to the lyrics and messages contained in his songs, a book written looking at the sea an introspective work that examines his life and in which everyone can easily recognize themselves.
“Amore e rabbia” (Love and anger), Vololibero Editions, 2019