Is It Possible to Find the Meaning of Music?

“I am Sorry I Haven’t A Clue” is a BBC radio comedy panel game. Sometimes, the panelists are asked to sing the lyrics of one song, to the melody of the other. This game often results in funny, sometimes weirdly confusing music. Even though you’d expect a song made by putting together components of two different songs to be a mess, it is anything but.

The words of one song seem to be in harmony with the tune of the other; however, they do still seem to portray two disjoint sentiments. The game is fun because the audience has to spot and recognize the disconnect between the expressiveness of the music and the lyrics.

We all know that for a tune to be good, not only should it flow harmoniously with the words, it should also depict something that is attuned to their meaning. It’s not difficult to try to decode the meaning of a song’s lyrics, by understanding the words and sentences, but how can you understand music, if at all?

The Meaning of Music

Before we try to understand the meaning of music, we need to answer the following question: Is there any meaning associated with music in the first place? Lyrics are easy to attach meaning to because they are easily processible, but what about music? Is there a way to accurately define what certain music is trying to elucidate?


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For example, what is the music of the song Lately by Lera Lynn trying to convey? Or does the music of The Reason by Hoobastank tell us anything about whether or not the song is a happy one or a sad one? The researcher believes that once we gather enough data, we can adequately answer these questions with some level of scientific certainty. We might be able to program a machine that can listen and feel the music of songs in the same way our ears do; perhaps even better.