Reason in Rain

One of the most memorable moments in my life was when my 5th grade music teacher in Munich, Mr. Peter Tomanke, asked the class to answer the question: “Why do you listen to music?”. His answer: There is just ONE SINGLE reason to listen to music – You listen to music, because it makes you feel better.

Just one single reason? Until today, I continue to ponder about this question. Of course everyone in class tried to come up with additional reasons, but failed to find any convincing alternative. The most promising further candidate was brought forward by a classmate: when you are depressed, you may want to listen to depressing music in order to feel even more depressed. However, I am not sure, if you nevertheless end up feeling better afterwards, so I don’t know if that theory qualifies as a “real” second reason, perhaps it’s merely a variation of mood-raising-hypothesis.

“I’m only happy when it rains” (1996) by the band Garbage is a beautiful example for how music can’t help but transform even a often gloomy topic such as rain into something that makes you feel better. I don’t think the lyrics would work very well on their own as a poem – the music seems to be necessary to make the lyrics as impressive as they are. Also, the name of the band fits perfectly with the title of the song (as often is the case with Garbage – other notable content-matches are Garbage – “Stupid Girl” and Garbage – “I think I’m paranoid”). To round things off, selected lines from the lyrics support my suspicion that a drop in mood can actually improve your mood:  “Why, it feels so good to feel so sad.” and “You want to know about my new obsession? – I’m riding high upon a deep depression!”:

Trolle Siebenhaar state “We got the rain – don’t know why.” but are quick to add “Sweet Dogs – Sweet Rain” in their groundbreaking song “Sweet Dogs” (2007). It seems perplexingly impossible not to like the catchy tune of the song:

Gene Kelly apparently was not only defying the rain, but also high fever when shooting the accompanying video to the title track of the movie “Singing in the Rain”(1952). Also here can be seen that the moment you have a melody playing in your head, external nuisances such as rain will simply be incorporated as something beneficial into your inner-melody-induced good mood:

Even Frédéric Chopin’s Raindrop Prélude Opus 28, Nr. 15 for piano published in 1839 is uplifting in spirit, despite George Sand stating that he wrote it while suffering from both being ill and from hearing a persistent, repetitive, regular, nerve-racking dripping of rain on the roof (or window). Throughout the entire piece, a single note is repeated perpetually, as if it were a stream of dripping water – or rain. While these drops at first have a serene accompaniment, over time a thunderstorm approaches and discharges it’s full-fledged fury by fortifying the drops with additional rain showers – but after the wrath is over, the heavy thunderclouds clear away and the raindrops eventually turn into a trickle before stopping – with the weather and the world in peace by the end of the piece. And no matter how dark in spirit the thunderstorm-parts of the piece may have been – in the end you feel better:

Finally, no matter how hard Fran Healy from the band “Travis” tries to drown in self-misery in the song “Why does it always rain on me”(1999), even he is smiling when singing the cheerful melody:

Of course, sometimes the rain itself is perceived as something mood-enhancing – especially if you are a farmer desperately waiting for natural irrigation for your crops, as depicted in the song “Ghanan Ghanan” in the 2001 movie Lagaan. In this case, the music can get straight to the point of raising your mood without first having to transform something unpleasant into something pleasant (as all prior pieces had mastered so artfully).

Thus, no matter from which angle music tackles the topic of rain – the result always makes you feel better and proves that my 5th grade teacher may be right. To be precise, his question only referred to music that you like – music that you dislike on the other hand may be detrimental to your mood. But the moment you like a song, you can’t run, you can’t hide: there is no escape from being forced to feel better.

Have a rainy week,

Eric