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  • Writer's pictureAmy Salgado

Music’s Poignant Role in the Film “Moonlight” and Its Significance in Our Own Lives

Man listening to music through his headphones with his eyes closed

To this day, I can’t stop thinking about the integral impact of music in Barry Jenkins' film “Moonlight.” This film beautifully and skillfully weaves together storytelling, visuals, and music to create a deeply emotional and immersive experience for the audience. From a slowed and chopped version of Jidenna’s Classic Man to the double meaning of Barbara Lewis’ Hello Stranger, the significance of music in this film is poignant. It serves as a language that communicates emotions, memories, cultural impact, and intersectional identities. It serves as a reminder that music is a deeply personal and visceral experience and one can find healing in its sound.

Why Music In Our Own Lives Matters

Emotional Expression and Resonance

Music has the power to express what words cannot, allowing us to process and release our emotions in productive and healthy ways. Different melodies, harmonies, and rhythms can evoke a wide range of feelings, from elation and nostalgia to sadness and introspection. It can amplify joy, soothe disappointment, and channel anger (cue mostly anything from Linkin Park).

Identity, Connection, and a Sense of Belonging

Music often becomes intertwined with personal identity and can be woven into the fabric of cultural traditions. The music we love reflects our tastes, values, and personal experiences, creating a sense of connection to our own identity and to others. It can communicate complex emotions and ideas without the need for verbal language. For me, it’s the sense of pride and emotional reaction to hearing the song “Cielito Lindo.”

Memory and Nostalgia

Music has a unique power to transport individuals to past moments in their lives. Hearing a song from a certain time period can evoke vivid memories and emotions associated with that time. These musical triggers become markers of personal history and milestones. Like how T-Pain’s “Buy You A Drank” will never fail to bring me back to my local college bar having the time of my life.

Healing and Comfort

Music has a soothing effect on the soul. It can offer comfort during times of distress and allow us to truly experience that range of emotions that are required to process life’s transitions. People often turn to familiar songs or genres that have brought them comfort and the familiarity of music provides a sense of stability and control. It becomes a safe and non-judgmental way to communicate our inner experiences.

Channeling Inspiration

Music has a remarkable ability to ignite creativity. It can set the mood for creative workflow (Where are my lo-fi lovers at?). Upbeat, energetic music may fuel productivity and motivation, while soft, soothing melodies can create an environment conducive to deep thinking and reflection. Music can break through mental barriers and limitations. Where you feel stuck, music can shift your focus and create a new connection, ideas, and concepts. In times of difficulty or transformation, it can offer a glimmer of hope and remind us that beauty can emerge from struggle.

Liberation and Release

Music can create movement in our bodies, and movement can be a form of medicine. The body stores emotions, often manifesting as tension, stress, or pain. Music and movement provide a safe avenue for releasing these emotions through dance, cathartic movements, and stretches. Individuals can use music to physically express what might be challenging to express verbally and emotionally, thus allowing for a sense of liberation and release. Do me a favor and after reading this article listen to the artist Kamauu’s song “Jusfayu” and try not to dance.

Final Thoughts

The role of music in “Moonlight” mirrors its importance in our own lives. Music to the soul is a profound and multidimensional experience. It feeds our innermost selves, provides a space for healing, enriches human existence, and helps us understand the world around us. Just as the film’s characters find solace, identity, and connection through music, we too can use music meaningfully to navigate our own emotional landscape and create a soundtrack that accompanies us on our life journey.


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