Thursday, May 14, 2015

Parenting and Musicianship Collide: Naming Emotions

I am a parent of children of a certain age. A certain age during which I am encouraged to help them "name their emotions" by saying things like, "It sounds like you are angry right now." This is REALLY difficult for me, and I think I have discovered part of the reason why. In the moment, I often start the sentence, and then end up saying, "It sounds like you... might be... angry? Or sad. Or frustrated! Or maybe lonely?" Obviously, I am not clarifying much for my children with regard to their emotions. I also hate putting words in their mouths about how they feel. How should I know what they are really feeling? And more than that, what about the emotions that can't be named?
I had that last thought on the way to a gig this morning, thinking about the power of music and the mysterious ways it serves humanity. I think it may be precisely that it taps the emotions that cannot be named. It is the meeting of intellect with intuition. The melding of the tragic with the divine. Within a single performer, it can be the meeting of physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental energies with something entirely mysterious and unknowable. Music is both fleeting and eternal. I sure as heck can't name with a word or two what I'm feeling when I give a great performance, or witness one.
Perhaps next time I have the urge to help my children "name their emotions," I'll put some music on instead.

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