In My Feels – Music for When I Feel JOYFUL

Little girl wearing sunglasses and smiling

Sometimes it can be hard to identify certain feelings, let alone experience them! But did you know that listening to music is a great way to experience our emotions fully?

“Where words fail, music speaks.”

— Hans Christian Andersen

Music offers a safe space to explore joy, sadness, excitement, anger, contentment, fear, and everything in between without judgment. Music can paint an even richer and more comprehensive picture of how we perceive emotions by using sounds rather than words to describe feelings.

Think of music as a friend accompanying you on a ride at a theme park. Sometimes the ride looks fun; sometimes, it seems terrifying. But no ride lasts forever, and often, you learn something about yourself from the experience.

In this series, we will explore emotions and use music as our guide.

Music for When I Feel JOYFUL

What are some situations that make you feel joyful? Perhaps when you think of joyful moments, you think of momentous occasions and celebrations, such as weddings, graduations, and holiday gatherings. Or maybe you are more drawn to ordinary, everyday moments, such as when your cat falls asleep on your lap or when you notice the sun’s warmth on your face.

Like all emotions, feeling joyful can take on many different shades. Here are a few other ways to describe feeling joyful:

  • Happy
  • Cheerful
  • Pleased
  • Elated
  • Delighted
  • Buoyant

When you’re ready, find a quiet place where you feel comfortable and safe, and let’s dive into some musical works that characterize the various shades of joy.

“Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity” from The Planets by Gustav Holst

There you have it – joy built right into the title of this piece! When the composer, Gustav Holst, wrote The Planets, he assigned each planet in our solar system symbolic attributes. Jupiter is a planet that symbolizes not only happiness and cheer but also celebration and magnificence. Listen to how these two sides of “jollity” are represented in the music. Fun fact – Holst used one of these themes to create a British national hymn called, “I vow to thee, my country.”

Nocturne in A-flat Major, “Le murmure” by Maria Szymanowska

Nocturnes are works for the piano that evoke the night. Typically, nocturnes aren’t associated with feelings of joy but rather tranquility, romance, and dreaminess. Maria Szymanowska’s nocturne, “Le murmure” (or “the whisper” in English), is an exception. The graceful melody and rippling accompaniment make it nearly impossible not to imagine idyllic settings and happy occasions.  

“Juba” from Symphony No. 3 in c minor by Florence Price

Instead of using a traditional scherzo or minuet, composer Florence Price wrote a Juba dance for the third movement of her Symphony No. 3 in c minor. A Juba is an African American vernacular dance using syncopated rhythms. Florence Price used this dance form in her symphony to celebrate her heritage and create a more inclusive, uniquely American sound in classical music. I bet you can’t listen to this piece without breaking out into dance!

“Berceuse” from Dolly Suite by Gabriel Fauré

Sometimes, feeling joyful can have shades of calm and coziness, as you can hear in this song. “Berceuse” (or “Lullaby” in English) is from a collection of songs for piano duet – twice the fun! If you’re wondering who Dolly is, the composer wrote these songs for the daughter of his romantic partner at the time. The daughter’s nickname was “Dolly,” and this lullaby was prepared to celebrate her first birthday.

“Zefiro Torna” by Claudio Monteverdi

“Zefiro Torna” (or “Return O Zephyr” in English) is a madrigal that embodies joy. A madrigal is a style of non-religious song from the Renaissance and Baroque eras. Madrigals are typically sung acapella by a group of singers or singers accompanied by instruments. One of the cool aspects of a madrigal is that it can be performed in various ways! “Zefiro Torna” (or “Return O Zephyr” in English) is one of Monteverdi’s most famous madrigals and tells the story of the Greek god Zephyrus who brings Spring to the mountains and valleys, filling them with flowers and sunlight. 

If you’d like, you can follow along with the English translation of the poetry here.

You can listen to all these pieces, plus a few extras, on our Spotify playlist – Music for When I Feel JOYFUL.