Do instrumental song without lyrics have meanings? This instrumental song from Pink Floyd's album 'The Endless river' seems to have some vocals in it and then all instumental. Is this instrumental related to the vocals. What is the meaning behind this song?

Things left unsaid - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0dw8aFj5cwQ

4 Answers 4


You're asking about current popular music, but this question was a famous discussion in and around the 19th century in terms of "classical" music.

Program music attempts to "tell a story" of some kind. Typically this music doesn't have words, but the composer can provide a type of background story to help get your imagination going and to match musical events with events in the drama. (Later on, some composers added words.)

Absolute music, meanwhile, is not "about" anything; it's just music for the sake of music.

As to your question of Do instrumental songs without lyrics have meanings? A proponent of absolute music would say "absolutely not!", whereas someone sympathetic to the idea of program music would say "it absolutely could!"

Of course, if we're going to make a claim that this Pink Floyd piece is in fact telling a story, we'd need some evidence supporting it; unfortunately I don't have any such evidence to share.

  • Actually the meaning I grabbed was from the members of Pink Floyd. The the slogan at the end. But I do admit I like the general idea of your answer :) Oct 2, 2016 at 5:14

The meaning of instrumental music is in my opinion deeply connected to the perception of life in general. For many different people usually have very similar feelings about an instrumental piece, the music seems to be deeply related to something like the collective unconcious.

Instrumental music - if well written - expresses always common perceptions of life, or "draws" well known pictures of nature, and therefore is kind of a holistic form of communication, or better transportation, of feelings, experiences or parts of the 'conditio humana'.

It carries holistic information on a non-verbal level, and therefore can (usually) be immediately understood deeply inside of us, without the need for interpretation or translation, and without the commonly known misunderstandings of verbal communication. It affects the innermost, more intuitiv and archaic parts of our brains, and has therefore a very powerful and direct effect.

This is also the reason for the use of instrumental music in movie productions. To give an example, see Stanley Kubrick's "2001 - a space odyssey", where the impact of non-verbal music (or the absence of it) is one of the most important creative means and has a thrilling, direct effect on almost every viewer.

Or see Gustav Mahler's 6th symphony (especially the last movement), where most of the audience understand the big picture of struggle and devastation without having read their booklet.

Or - to give perhaps more commonly known examples - see the program music of the 19th century with pieces like Beethoven's 6th symphony or Smetana's 'Ma vlast - My homeland' with its part 'Vltava - The Moldau'.

Perhaps there is - besides the above mentioned effects - also kind of a common traditional consensus about the meaning of certain forms of non-verbal music, to be experienced for example in the peasant's wedding dance of 'The Moldau'. We all know such feasts and the music being played at them. But this is - in my opinion - a by far less important aspect than the former mentioned.


Simply put “Things Left Unsaid”, is the first track off of Pink Floyd’s final attempt, “The Endless River”.

From “Things Left Unsaid” unto “Louder than Words”, the whole album consists of mostly ambient instrumental music, and is described in an interview with David Gilmour and Nick Mason as “a continuous flow of music that gradually builds upon four separate parts”. In other words, the album is simply “full circle” meaning that once you have reached the end, the end is simply the beginning as the music fades out, but happens to fade in at the beginning.

We shout and argue and fight, and work it on out.

  • Kind of suggests that it's framed to be listened to either as "just music" ('mostly ambient instrumental music') or an evocation of something - guessing here - a relationship over a long time between a bunch musicians with its ups and downs, but which keeps on going.
    – Angst
    Oct 1, 2016 at 21:00
  • @Angst Yes exactly, music or relationships and the answer I gave are actually terms used by band members themselves. As you mentioned, as a relationship, which I think just more so broadened the meaning. I was originally thinking relationship with a spouse since in my mind that is where I am at so I suppose life as well. Plus, We dont need no education, is about being older and reflecting on their youth. I guess it really is a album about things going full circle, and can be applied in many ways. Nice comment to expand the idea even more so. Cheers! Oct 2, 2016 at 5:20

When I think of meaning I think of something specific. So music without lyrics or words or titles or any type of literal reference does not have any specific meaning, to me. There is definitely emotion, which, I would argue, would be interpreted in a similar way by most, if not all, humans, and possibly non humans.

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