6 Songs to Self-Discovery
Have you ever felt as if a certain piece of music, or a particular character perhaps, understood you better than any of your friends? Well, if you have, then I can tell you for sure you’re not alone. Oftentimes, people look at the art of musical theater and performing as something external and communicative (which it of course is) but in the process, they can forget that there is also a rather personal function that it satisfies.
Musical theater is also a means of self-exploration—a pathway of some sort that allows artists (creators and performers alike) and audiences to make sense of inner thoughts, feelings, ideas, and memories that eventually lead them to self-discovery. Although it’s hard to be completely certain of oneself, art can act as a tool to ground people in the innermost desires of their souls. This purpose is shared by all the forms that art takes, whether visual, musical, or anything else. In musical theater, it is through the songs, stories, and characters that people begin to ponder who they are and who they are not and from there, begin living the rest of their lives.
As for me, personally, here are the songs that I think best make us contemplate on ourselves and allow us to ask the ever-pressing question, “just who am I, really?”
1. How to Return Home – Kerrigan-Lowdermilk
In life, one of the biggest transformations we will ever undergo is the one from innocence to understanding—or in more inaccurate terms, childhood and growth. The cliché “the only constant thing in the world is change” applies most especially within ourselves, and I think this is what “How to Return Home” is all about: getting to see who you were with eyes of knowledge and experience, and from there, gaining understanding of not just who you are right now, but rather who you choose to become. I think this piece is so masterfully done because of the raw quality of the melody as well as the vivid description of the situation that one can actually interpret both literally and figuratively.
2. One Last Prayer – Kerrigan-Lowdermilk
This piece is just absolutely beautiful. With words as honest and as human as these, a song can hardly go wrong. I think we’ve all been in a situation where we faced a crossroads between what is easy and what is right, and believe me, making that choice is anything but simple. “One Last Prayer” exemplifies that choice. It makes us aware of our dreams and reminds us why we stand where we are in the first place. I think it’s a very powerful piece in a sense that it asks us the question of whether one’s dreams are worth the man/woman that person has become.
3. Corner of the Sky (from Pippin) – Stephen Schwartz
“Corner of the Sky” tells us to be courageous enough to go after our own destinies. It works with the premise that acknowledging who we are will eventually lead us to our purpose in life, which actually is the goal of living in the first place. I think the piece effectively brings out hope amongst whoever is exposed to it simply because of the innate optimism that its melody embodies—not to mention the wonderful words that go with it. Overall I think it’s a rather effective piece in emphasizing how everyone has his or her own role to play on the stage that is this world.
4. Rewrite This Story (from SMASH) – Pasek and Paul
Following through with one’s path is hardly ever the easiest task. As people go on with their lives we find that it’s almost a guarantee that the road to our dreams will be a difficult one AND could even lead us to a direction far from where we ever pictured ourselves. These moments are the ones that make us question what we really want out of life and somehow help us redirect ourselves towards that destination. “Rewrite This Story” is all about that experience – knowing the right moment to say that “this is not where I’m meant to be and I’m going to change that.”
5. No Reason At All – Jonathan Reid Gealt
Getting to know oneself is not just about accepting the admirable qualities of your character but also about loving your weaknesses. Life never goes in just one color but rather in black, white and all other shades in between. We can’t just focus on one end and let the others be drowned and overlooked. “No Reason At All” tells us that accepting oneself is also about acknowledging all the other things within us that need improvement. We must learn to love the negative portions of our character, apart from all the good things, because they are the ones that truly make us human in the first place.
6. I Won’t Have to Anymore – Jonathan Reid Gealt
“I Won’t Have to Anymore” is a very interesting piece because unlike the others that tackle our inability to figure out who we are, it focuses rather on knowing oneself yet being unable to live with the circumstances that make you feel like you’re can’t be yourself. The uncontainable emotional tension that the piece explores emphasizes our human need to be ourselves, whatever the circumstances, which I think makes the piece very powerful indeed.
With all that’s been said, what remains is that musical theater is a very effective avenue for self-reflection. After all, music and art were meant to touch people before anything else. Let the story take you places within your mind you’ve never visited before. Let the music direct you to where your heart really lies.
What songs inspire your own self-discovery?