The Music Is Speaking

Pedro Hoffmeister
2 min readFeb 26, 2022

Sometimes it’s not the lyrics.

Photo by C D-X on Unsplash

Have you ever noticed that music is words? Not the words in a song — not the lyrics — but the actual music itself?

I was trying to write while listening to Barber’s Adagio For Strings this morning since it’s such an incredible, evocative classical piece, and since it DOES NOT HAVE WORDS. But writing to that piece was impossible. The music itself was saying too many things for me to create my own words. I couldn’t write poetry with my own thoughts or feelings. The adagio itself was it’s own poetry, and it’s narrative voice and details were too overpowering for my brain.

But it doesn’t have to be classical music to be speaking beyond the lyrics. For example, I love Latto’s new song Big Energy, the throwback disco sound and the swagger of someone who’s confidently and fully herself. And yes, there are lyrics there too, but you can here the swagger and confidence in just the music itself.

So after listening to those two pieces, and feeling the words inside the music, I’ve started to notice that sometimes lyrics and music match so well, and other times they don’t. Also, when a song’s truly terrible, the music doesn’t say anything at all, it’s just bland repetition multiplied (see lots of boy bands as examples).

Pedro Hoffmeister

Author with Random House. TBI survivor who struggles. Poet. Climber. Former Writer-In-Residence of Joshua Tree National Park. Podcast: “Boring Is A Swear Word”