Skip to content

Bloom Vol 18: Emotional Intelligence

Columnist Alex Wagner reflects on the role music has played in his personal development

In this ongoing series, DJ and mental-health advocate Alex Wagner shares stories and inspiration to create awareness.


Music is a powerful key to pieces of our minds and hearts that might succumb to cobwebs and rotting wood otherwise.

Music threads thought and understanding into the fabric of emotional comprehension, allowing us to feel magnified to limitless degrees, potentially, everything.

It is wondrous to allow abstraction to help us articulate emotion, perceive it, and even evaluate it. We developed these forms of communication through music and the arts that can unpack the heaviest of loads.

Pink Floyd’s “Time” plays in the background as I make my way through these lines. I hear the ringing clocks, the clops that fane a helicopter’s whirling blades, and timpanis that roll panned dramatically left and right, verberating in the distance.

The guitar comes in low.

I am a student of my library, re-reading passages as melodies fold corners for my later recollection. I think about years in the first two minutes and twenty seconds of “Time”.

I reflect on the warzones of my past.

The amount of resolve I feel within the verses, prowling cadence guitar weaving in and out of the drums, pronounced but not overzealous, has grown over the years.

“I like to be here when I can.”

Music has played a leading melody in developing my emotional intelligence, helping me make sense of my emotions and those of others.

It helps me be here.

For June, I’d like to focus on the theme of emotional intelligence. It’s vital for us as individuals, communities, and nations – for our species.

The definition of Emotional Intelligence is, more or less, “ the ability to perceive, control, and evaluate emotions.” (Lehman)

It has a hell of a soundtrack, too – I can begin to imagine that the most impactful songs in your life have influenced your perception and handling of emotions.

Music and mental health go hand in hand, but specifically, music and emotional intelligence are peas in a pod we need to tap into.

Understanding our hearts and the hearts of our neighbors can end dystopian visions of the future.

I was interested in an NPR article I read this week which begins to put a faint finger on the pulse of an economic recession, or at least the idea of one.

One of the primary indicators and drivers of such an event within a capitalist society is human emotion.

The article is titled “Fear the Vibe Shift.

“Bad things happening in the world can lead to a dark turn in animal spirits.” (Rosalsky)

Economist John Maynard Keynes’  in the 1920s, held a notion of a sort of vibe amongst people, and its reflection/impact on economic outlook originates from people’s inner animal spirits.

“Keynes said, we often make investing, spending, saving, and many other decisions based on our animal spirits: our feelings, emotions, beliefs, and psychological quirks.”

In selling, which occurs around us all of the time, we understand the place of emotional intelligence because we consistently will use words, stories, and whatever we can to paint a picture of a positive (desired) outcome.

You might not think you’re a salesperson, but you’re selling every time you advocate a friend to put on a different song in the car.

If we were to understand better how our emotions impact our buying decisions and display the importance of such, then over time, perhaps it would signal to organizations our awareness of ourselves and our surroundings, and it may change behavior.

Aegean Sea by Aphrodite’s Child has come on – I’m taken by the faint ooh’s curling upward, growing in loudness.

“I saw the souls

I saw the martyrs

I heard them crying

I heard them shouting

They were dressed in white

they’ve been told to wait

The sun was black

the moon was red

the stars were falling

the earth has trembling

And then a crowd impossible to number

Dressed in white

carrying palms shouted amid

the hotless sun

the lightless moon

the windless earth

the colourless sky …

They’ll no more suffer from hunger

they’ll no more suffer from thirst,”

Aegean Sea, Aphrodite’s Child, 1982

Aegean Sea amplifies my empathy for those who have been pinned in corners for the past couple of years.

I find my hands slow, pondering recession and what that word might mean for some – never mind inflation, COVID-19, and many lashes against the security folks had been building since the Great Recession.

Survivalism puts us deep into our animal states, away from the seeming luxuries of fiscal fortitude to be able to rest and reflect.

Would our communities not be more effective in assisting those in need from a more empathetic, emotion-aware position?

I look forward to exploring this topic with you.

The more we can see the layers of an onion, the better we know how to dice up something everyone will love.

Higher emotional intelligence will make our gardens lovely, too.


About the Author

Photo: Sumit Dhungel

A dance music producer, singer, and songwriter, Alex Wagner (known by his music project ASW), was called an emerging artist to watch by DJ Mag in September of 2021. Currently signed to Tommie Sunshine’s Brooklyn Fire Records, he has also had multiple releases on Atlantic Records, remixing artists such as Galantis.

As a crisis counselor for Crisis Text Line and certified peer counselor with the state of Washington, he has organized multiple mental health awareness events called “Grooving for Good” leveraging the power of music and the arts. He currently resides in Seattle, Washington. You can follow him on Instagram at @asinglewave.