The idea that weather can affect more than just how fast your clothes dry on the line isn’t new – we have credible sources for studies about how weather can affect a person’s mood and so on. In that sense, it’s also reasonable to assume that where mood plays a part in choices we make, the weather can have a subtle – if vicarious – effect on the music we choose listen to at certain times (many have seasonal favourites, or apply seasonal moods to albums and songs, and there have certainly been entire albums written for particular types of weather). What I’m really curiuous to find out is how significant a role weather really plays in the music that gets written outside of things like “music for a rainy day“, and more curious if there are discernable trends that can be found in line with region-specific weather patterns.
That might sound odd, perhaps even far-fetched at first, but I’m going to (briefly) explain some of my reasoning behind why I think this idea is more than plausible. (I’m also going to plagiarise myself, and quote excerpts from a forum post I made about this a couple of months ago 😉 ).
If you think about the origins of music – and I mean your traditional / tribal / folk stuff, quite often the instruments were made to emulate the sounds of nature, including weather (rainfall, wind storms etc), so these kinds of sounds have had a strong influence on music from the beginning. Traditional music in countries like Mexico and Africa certainly share a bit in common, at least in terms of being percussion-rich and fairly fast tempo – attributing that to hot or dry weather is flawed theorising at best, but it’s still food for thought. Here in Australia, for example, another hot, dry country, traditional music still features percussion quite strongly, but the tempo is slower, more indulgent perhaps.
A lot of traditional instruments are still in use today, though probably without the specific intention of mimicking things like the sound of heavy rain falling on dry earth, or harsh snow storms with howling winds etc; and obviously the instruments and the sounds they can create are not so region-specific any more, either.
One also needs to take into consideration subject matter when it comes to music, which also affects tone and pace. If you consider that songs generally tell stories, or at least convey a concept, I think it’s reasonable to assume that while you have things like mood, theme etc in the foreground, weather is still a part of the background, at the very least contributing to the prevalent mood and most often without it ever being overt. (Would, say, Bon Iver’s For Emma… had different underlying elements, or even a different sound altogether, if Justin Vernon’s self-imposed isolation had taken place in Tanzania, or the Arctic? The album, I assume, would be telling much the same story, but nature and the weather it brings with it can be a powerful source of inspiration and/or influence, especially if in those kinds of circumstances it’s one of very few things that one has for company, as well as generally being the only part of the scenery that fluctuates or varies).
Quite obviously, there’s much more behind the idea of “region-specific” sounds than weather. Popularity, scene, market forces and a whole host of other factors can all be (at least in part) responsible for the emergence and prevalance of certain kinds of sounds emanating from specific regions – most associate grunge with Seattle, and I certainly haven’t heard any “blame it on the rain” reasons for that. And, of course, music is no longer constricted in terms of access to new trends and sounds from across the globe. Further to that, in more densely populated areas, large cities and suburbs etc, weather probably doesn’t play as significant or obvious a role as it once did (noted more often if it’s inconveniencing day-to-day life), so perhaps the influence is more subtle to indiscernable, but I still wouldn’t go so far as to say non-existant.
So, both out of personal and professional curiosity, I extend an invitation to musicians and music enthusiasts alike to offer your own perspective on this subject. Whether it’s just a matter of weather affecting mood and subsequently the tone of music, or if certain sounds have inspired the use of a particular instrument and how. Perhaps you may even slightly alter the way a song is played during different types of weather. There’s little to no resources (that I can find) available where this subject is concerned, so for the time being the scope of information I’m interested in is pretty wide – if you’re just an avid listener, perhaps you’ve noticed trends or sounds at least common to certain areas, be they local to you or a region/country of specific interest, that you may be able to source to the kind of weather specific to the area.
All opinions, perspectives, ideas etc. welcomed – anonymously or not. Please keep in mind that if I can gather enough material on the subject, I’d like to write a feature article, so sources and references are appreciated and will, of course, be credited.