A woman wearing headphones.

March 9, 2020, by UoN School of English

Music and English – An Unlikely Connection

Since starting university I have become greatly accustomed to walking around campus in particular the treacherous trek up the downs. My trusted companion of choice tends to be my headphones; not only do they keep my ears warm they also decrease the chances of awkward interactions with strangers (always a win). Regardless of these factors the primary function of my headphones is of course to play music.

A held iphone with Spotify's front page open showing some playlists.


Listening to music has become a seminal part of my routine and thus can greatly influence my mood. Consequently, my vast expanse of downloaded songs are meticulously organised into playlists according to mood and activity. For example, I have categories dedicated to feeling sad, happy, confident and chilled as well as playlists assigned to working out and socialising. I believe my connection to music is all encompassing as I incorporate it within all aspects of my life, yet a connection is seemingly lacking between music and my academic studies as an English student.

My preconceived notions began to change after researching the commonalities between music and poetry. Firstly, both forms of artistry involve the flow of words controlled by a rhythm and share technical vocabulary including terms such as meter and verse. Additionally, they are characterised by the expression of thoughts and feelings through emotive language. There is a specific form of poetry called a lyric that is written with the sole purpose of being performed through the medium of music. Much like lines of poetry, the lyrics of songs can be unpicked and analysed to uncover a deeper meaning for example the use of wordplay is common in rap music.

Man wearing headphones sits in a coffee shop writing on a notepad.


Furthermore, music has been used in the educational sphere to help teach younger children. Ask yourself why do songs exist such as The Periodic Table Song? Because reducing facts to rhythm and rhyme increases the chances of memorisation. This can also be seen in the case of those that are new to the English language who find their language acquisition is greatly improved by listening to English songs.

Music can also work wonders for productivity outside the classroom when focusing on private studies. Personally, listening to background music instead of the humdrum of noise in the Hallward Library improves my concentration and endurance when working. Certain types of mood boosting music also increase my motivation to complete the tasks I have set myself.

English and music are inexplicably connected through their multi-faceted nature as languages. Music exists as a universal language understood and related to by all. It has the power to educate, motivate, inspire and reflect a lifetime of emotion. So, in the words of the Bard himself: “If music be the food of love, play on”.

Bethany Read is a first year English student at the University of Nottingham.

Image Credits: Dollar Gill, Fixelgraphy & Kelvin Lutan
Posted in Student Words