The Beauty of Music Without Words

the beauty of music without words

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Be it the cheerful jingle of elevator music or the carefully orchestrated film scores that we often do not register, too immersed in the film itself as we are, music—without words—is practically everywhere around us, whether we realise it or not. And, it is simply beautiful. Some people may disagree, preferring instead songs with lyrics, deeming them more meaningful as they contain words that can reach the heart; while others may argue that they simply do not understand the intricacies of chords and harmonies. Though these are all valid points, music without words is equally important and wondrous. It is able to touch one’s heart at its core, allowing us to simply listen and feel. 

The significance

A symbol of hope

Classical music has long been used as a tool to uplift and empower in times of darkness and despair. Vedran Smailović, also known as The Cellist of Sarajevo, is one such example. During the siege of Sarajevo, Smailović played Albinoni’s “Adagio in G Minor” amidst the rubble of ruined buildings, often under the threat of snipers. As such, he became a symbol of hope and life for those living under the siege. Perhaps, through his music, they were able to reconcile with their grief and loss, while finding light in the travesty of it all. It is an especially poignant and grim image, considering the contrast of such beautiful music being created amid wreckage upon wreckage, a picture of life in death. The story of Smailović travelled around the world and there have been films, books and music compositions made in his honour. After all, in times of true hopelessness, it is only such music that can reach us, when words fail to. Indeed, there is no word out there that is able to encapsulate that extent of disparity. This is something that can only be understood, only be felt and not described. And such a feeling is conveyed through the playing of a piece of wordless music. More recently, there have also been accounts of musicians playing music pieces in their war-torn countries. A viral video depicting Vera Lytochenko, a Ukrainian violinist, playing a Ukrainian folk song in an underground bomb shelter is one such example. Such music helps to bring comfort and hope to the people in the shelter, as well as to show the world Ukraine’s undying spirit. Clearly, music is a powerful symbol in times of great darkness. 

Mental stimulation and improvement

Besides being a symbol of empowerment and life, such music can also help stimulate the brain, improving one’s mental health, as well as invoking forgotten memories and emotions. Playing musical instruments or listening to music have long been touted as something that can help to soothe and calm. There is just something about music that causes the neurons and chemicals in our brain to make us feel just that tad bit better. As such, many of us enjoy listening to music when we are stressed, angry or sad. Music therapy also serves to help improve our mental health, allowing us to disconnect with our world and find solace in the form of music when words fail us. A Spanish organisation, Música Para Despertar, or Music to Wake, uses music to help patients with Alzheimer’s or dementia to remember by stimulating core memories through the listening of music. An example is the former ballet dancer Marta Cinta González Saldaña who had Alzheimer’s, remembering and performing her dance routine after listening to Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake”. Beyond just humans, such wordless music can also soothe the likes of animals. Paul Barton is a pianist who regularly plays for blind and handicapped elephants in Thailand. He finds that slow and gentle music can bring calm and comfort to the elephants. In the Youtube videos that he has posted, you can clearly see how touched the elephants are from listening to his playing, evident in the way the elephants’ eyes watered as they stood in rapt attention. Evidently, music is a powerful tool in helping to evoke emotions and memories, in both humans and animals alike. 

In the creation of films

Music is also essential in the creation of films. Background music is the backbone of all of our beloved films. Imagine how boring films would be without an accompanying theme song or background track giving the scene just that extra oomph and pazazz. For instance, a Studio Ghibli film without the Ghibli soundtrack: it just will not be the same. The cute catchy melody of Totoro’s theme is crucial in establishing the childlike wonder the film gives off, while Spirited Away’s “One Summer’s Day” emulates a sense of serene melancholy like no other. Listening to such music while studying or sleeping can also either help you boost concentration or lull you to sleep respectively, as evidenced by the countless playlists of Ghibli instrumentals on Spotify and Youtube. Another genre of film that relies heavily on music is horror films. Removing a horror film’s soundtrack is akin to taking away the scare factor completely, and making it almost comical. The crescendo of say a violin, helps to build up suspense in the audience as they anticipate a jump scare while grating sounds helps to create tension and horror. The sudden absence of sound also instils a sense of eeriness only the quiet can emulate. Thus, the music and lack thereof is significant too. Clearly, music without words is extremely important and it holds great power in the execution of films. 


Music without words is undoubtedly everywhere around us, and can be found anywhere if we know how to look for it. Though some may say that they cannot understand such music and therefore cannot appreciate it, I think that such a notion is not true. You do not have to understand such music to appreciate it, you just need to allow yourself to feel. Only then will you enjoy it. Furthermore, such music has no fixed meaning and can mean whatever you want it to be. It is freeing and uniquely yours, in the sense that what you interpret it to be, or rather feel it to be, is something personal and innate. Your interpretation of a piece of music can differ from everyone else’s despite it being the same—and is that not so wondrous? It connects beyond words, and prioritises feeling over telling. Above all, music without words is simply beautiful.