Music and happiness: the joy of re-discovering a song I love.

Yesterday, I spent a few hours working in one of my favorite spots, the Pisa Pizza pizza shop. I usually don’t notice the music playing in the background, but I heard a song that I love that I hadn’t heard in a long time.

I don’t enjoy music much; I don’t have an iPod, I don’t buy CDs or songs from iTunes, it never occurs to me to listen to music as I got about my daily routine. I wish I liked music more, but as part of my resolution to “Be Gretchen,” I’ve accepted my tastes. Nevertheless, when I do like a particular piece of music, I love it.

As with this song. I didn’t know its title, or the name of the band, and I couldn’t understand the words very well, but I stopped working to listen.

In keeping with my resolutions to “Follow my curiosities,” “Take time to wander,” and “Be Gretchen,” I decided to try to track down the song.

Ah, the glories of the modern age. I jotted down some lyrics that I could understand, and when I got home, I searched for them in Google. I discovered that the song was “Under the Bridge” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The Big Man had put all our (really, his) music on our computer, so I searched for it and – there it was. In a flash, to my intense gratification, the song was playing in my office.

Studies show that listening to music is one of the best ways to bring on a good mood, and 92% of people get a boost when they listen to music of their choice.

“Under the Bridge” rouses strange emotions in me. I wouldn’t say it makes me feel happy, exactly. The song is beautiful, and I listened to it many times. But listening to the song is almost painful, too…I can’t describe how it makes me feel. There is a kind of exquisite pleasure that is happiness, but also not happiness. But there is happiness in experiencing it. And it sure made me happy that I could so easily track down and listen to the song.

It’s playing right now.

Just as I was getting ready to post this, I decided to see if I could link to the song without violating any copyright laws. I’m not sure about the legal status of this link to YouTube, but here it is: Under the Bridge, live in concert. On the one hand, watching the video undermined my experience of the song, because I was distracted by the band’s questionable fashion decision to forgo their shirts (of course, they’re known for their propensity to forgo much more than their shirts). And a live version has more glitches than the recorded version. On the other hand, I loved hearing a stadium full of people crooning the chorus along with the band.

I don’t ever want to feel like I did that day
Take me to the place I love, take me all the way…

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  • MJ

    I understand. I was in college in the 1980s and last Friday I heard an old REM song that isn’t played on local radio much. It transported me right back to being 18 or 19, having so much of life new and fresh and exciting, and spending time listening to REM with my friends in the dorm. It made me very happy.
    Most recently (I’m being the times here) I heard Rufus Wainwright’s “Cigarettes & Chocolate Milk” for the first time and it made me SO happy that I bought the CD. It is cheerful, dark, witty, funny, clever and all set to a terrific dirty jazzy piano. Made me so happy to hear something so inventive and just plain cool!!
    And when I’m gloomy Bach makes me feel better. Something about the order and the beauty always does it.

  • I love that song! The Red Hot Chili Peppers are amazing 🙂

  • Sharyn

    Gretchen –
    I, also, used to be pretty apathetic when it came to music. I enjoyed certain songs when I happened to hear them, like your experience at the pizza shop, but that was about it. Very hit or miss. After realizing how much music both my son and daughter had on their computers and iPods that I really responded to – both old stuff that brought back memories of my teenage years and new stuff that is really catchy, innovative and/or thought-provoking – I decided I wanted an iPod. They got me one for Mother’s Day, and I highly recommend it as a boost to happiness. The right songs can make exercise time fly by, improve my mood at work, or be very relaxing at the end of the day.
    I got a lot of my ideas for songs to load off of the music site Pandora. Pandora is an amazing site which helps you find more music similar to what you already know you like.
    So, long story short, an iPod with the right songs makes me happier!!!

  • Sharyn

    A P.S. to the above – “Under The Bridge” is on my iPod, too – it was one I got from my daughter’s collection!

  • CS Lewis wrote of similar emotions (not happy, but pleasurable). He called it “sehnsucht,” a german word roughly meaning “the joy of longing.” From Wikipedia, ‘Lewis denotes by Sehnsucht the “inconsolable longing” in the human heart for “we know not what.”‘ It is an indescribable feeling, yet if you’ve experienced it you know exactly what he’s talking about – a painfully intense desire for something amazingly wonderful, yet indescribable even in one’s own mind. Not sure if this is what you’re talking about, but perhaps it’s similar…

  • Chris — absolutely, that sense of longing is exactly what I mean. C. S. Lewis writes brilliantly about that emotion in SURPRISED BY JOY, when he talks about about the “idea of North.”
    I love the idea of loading up an iPod with my favorite songs. I’ve never tried Pandora, maybe that’s what I need to get started.
    Music is a great way to change your mood quickly. I haven’t been using this strategy much, but now I’m realizing that I shouldn’t overlook this powerful tool.

  • I agree . Music is a great way to arouse a certain deep emotions we have. We encourage people to use music or movie when they are practicing visualization. Just like this one below on Rocky story will make people very inspired to achieve their dreams:-
    On a daily basis, I use a brainwave enhancement music to tune my frequencies of thoughts. This tool has been amazing as I rely on it to get the full color picture on what I want to visualize and I concentrate to find the exact feelings I want. I have post my review of this tool at my blog:-

  • Beth

    It’s funny – I LOVE music, but often don’t take the trouble to set it up to listen. (Partly because one of my co-workers has great taste, and I’m usually listening to his stuff when he’s in the office, but then when he leaves, I’m just… not.)
    I’ve never been impressed by iPods. Too expensive, too finicky, too DRM-dependent. I’ve been watching the market for a player I really like, and I found one a couple of weeks ago – the Zen Stone from Creative Labs – and of course immediately found eight reasons why I shouldn’t indulge.
    You’ve inspired me. I just thought, Wait, what? I’ve just taken on a contract job that will mean both more money and many hours of data entry over the next few months. I plan to travel in the fall, and have been thinking about who to borrow a player from. I LOVE MUSIC. It makes me happy while I’m working, and especially transforms data entry from tedious gruntwork to pleasantly contemplative quiet work. Saving forty bucks proves what exactly?
    I placed the order ten minutes ago. Thank you!

  • Music is like fragrance to me. I am transported to the time and place I first loved a particular song. I have created many CD’s from our huge CD collection to evoke certain moods and memories, and I can count on the music to lift my spirits.

  • I’d just like to say that I was delighted that you took a moment to think about the legality of posting a music clip, or even a link to the youtube video. I haven’t practiced law for years, and wasn’t that much into it when I did, but it pleases me that you are seeking to do the ethical/legal thing (even if it’s not always super clear what that is!)