Music: Medicine for the Soul by Evie Wynne
Music is special to every individual in some way and today Evie Wynne tells us about why it is so key for her.
When Ria asked me to write a post, I struggled to think of what to choose. I wanted to do something that gave a pretty good insight into me, something I was interested in, and something I could share that you may not have known, based on my own experiences, like a useful tool of some sort.
Because of this last point, I was considering writing a post about studying languages (I’m doing a degree in German and Spanish at the University of Bristol). But then I asked myself, what do I want to write about? And although from this rambling introduction you can see how much I like talking in general, something I always enjoy talking about, without fail, is music.
“It touches people’s souls…”
Music is probably my biggest passion (personal statement flashback…) and it’s a passion I share with millions and millions of people on the planet. It touches people’s souls in so many ways, and, like it has with many of your lives I’m sure, I want to talk about some of the ways it has had an impact on my life and been a vital resource and comfort.
Growing up, my parents always had music playing, and it quickly became a very important part of my life. My brother and I would listen to a tape of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band whilst getting ready for bed, or we would dance around frantically to Scissor Sisters or The White Stripes on our old CD player.
It’s a massive part of our family life, and I do have my parents to thank for largely influencing, if not forming, the music I listen to and lean on today.
So many of my favourite times have been at parties with family and friends, drunkenly swaying and screaming to ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ at 2am, or dancing my heart out in clubs with friends. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has had those moments of pure joy and drunken ecstasy where you think you’ve found the meaning of life… just me?
When I started singing in choirs, I was introduced to the realm of classical music more personally, though I didn’t start properly appreciating it for a while. I have actually written a whole blog post about our relationship with classical music over on my own blog, because I find it a very interesting topic. It is often considered weird or posh for children and young people to love classical music, and I worry about being considered that way just writing this. It’s totally okay if it’s not your thing, and don’t feel like you have to enjoy it (that’s probably part of the problem). I don’t have a particularly good knowledge of classical music, but I have found so many pieces that have had an impact on my life, just as any other music would.
I was lucky enough to go and see an opera recital at the Royal Opera House last year.
When I was very young, I also discovered musicals. Suddenly, I was obsessed with West Side Story, which then moved onto a serious Phantom of the Opera obsession (my brother’s still forgiving me for how much I subjected him to Gerard Butler in the 2004 film version), which then turned to an obsession for Jesus Christ Superstar, then Evita… you get the picture. It will probably be ongoing throughout my whole life. Whenever I go and see a show, I always walk away thinking ‘Yep, that’s it, I want to go into music.’
Music is often gifted in this way, not just CDs or records, but as an unforgettable experience in musicals and concerts and gigs, where crowds of people from all backgrounds are brought together. To me, not much beats the feeling of being in that crowd, singing along in unison to songs that mean so much to you.
One particularly memorable concert was seeing The Vaccines in Brighton years ago. They are a band that I discovered when I was about 14, and really define my growing-up, because I can pin each of the release of their albums to a very formative, important part of my teen years. This means that each time I listen to one of their songs, I’m instantly transported back to that stage in my life. It’s a lovely little time capsule to have, and it was particularly special seeing them live with people who felt much the same as I do.
And music goes with this sense of unity and community often. It is used as a way to share your interests and connect to people. It is the tool used in protest, a way to speak out. It is the comfort used in grief.
So many people turn to it in times of need. It is that personal friend, used to bring on a well-needed cry, or lift your spirits, or cathartically storm about and shout along to.
Music as a remedy.
Now, getting a little more personal, I feel dependent on music, because in my struggles with my mental health, often it is the only remedy that will do the job. There have been so many times I have been low, and thought, it will be okay, as long as I have this, feeling it had been written just for me, or been driven to tears by its beauty and genius and power.
There are countless times this has happened, from singing Brahms’s Schicksalslied in my university choir, to seeing Rocketman, the film about Elton John, at our local cinema with my mum, from artists like Amy Winehouse and the aptly-named First Aid Kit to Billy Joel and Leonard Cohen, all through difficult times and all life-affirming.
But the artist I will turn to the most is Rufus Wainwright, because I can feel incredibly lost, but the minute I hear his voice, I’m brought back to myself again. During lockdown, he’s been streaming a song a day from his piano at home, and there have been times I have sat with tears in my eyes, plagued by negative thoughts that evaporate around me as I’m surrounded by the hug of his song.
One of the best, most surreal moments of my life was when I got to sing on stage with him at The Royal Albert Hall, in a place and a concert where you could feel love and appreciation for his music radiating everywhere.
Not the best quality, but I am in this group of people joining Rufus Wainwright on stage at the Royal Albert Hall.
I also want to talk about Carole King. Now, even if you haven’t heard of her, you definitely will have heard her songs. She wrote ‘(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman’, made famous by Aretha Franklin, and eventually released her own album, Tapestry, finally singing all these amazing songs she had written. When I was about 17, after about a year of listening to that album inside-out, my mum took me to see Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, a musical written about her life. Around this time, my mental health was getting pretty bad. And it was probably a good thing that I had discovered Carole King at this point. Her music is incredibly powerful, and I think it probably helped me a lot. I’m glad that I discovered her at such a formative part of my life, too. She’s like that female role model everyone needs in their life. I’ve seen the musical three times now, by the way.
Music is everywhere. The background comfort at a party where you know no one, or the ice-breaking friend when you’re the host. It’s that first-date question as a way to see into someone and dilute the awkwardness. It’s your car journey on your way to university. It’s your shower buddy, your travel companion, your work colleague.
It is our support system.
But, with all of the above in place, you also suddenly have the soundtrack to your life. The music you listened to as a child, the song that got you through your first breakup, maybe even your first dance at your wedding. Concerts, shows and parties, and some of life’s hardest or most defining moments. Each one transports you to that place with one click, one press-play, bringing on a sweet sense of nostalgia and love like no other.
What would we do without it?
It’s funny how you can connect with someone without even having spent too much time with them. When I talk to Evie I feel like there is this glaring connection which, at times, has been comforting – seeing this flourish is even more special. A beautiful soul and relentlessly kind, Evie is studying German and Spanish at the University of Bristol and is, of course, infinitely bound to music.