What Is Existentialism Music?


Martha Robinson

Existentialism music is a genre of music that arose in the mid-20th century and is characterized by its emphasis on individualism, freedom, and the human condition. It is a style of music that focuses on the existential questions of life, such as the meaning of existence, the nature of reality, and the purpose of human existence. In this article, we’ll explore what existentialism music is all about and how it has influenced modern-day music.

Origins and Influences

Existentialism music emerged as a sub-genre of jazz in the mid-20th century. The genre was heavily influenced by existentialist philosophy, which emphasizes individual freedom and choice in an otherwise meaningless world. The philosophy was popularized by thinkers like Jean-Paul Sartre and Friedrich Nietzsche.

One of the most prominent musicians associated with existentialism music was John Coltrane. His album “A Love Supreme” is often cited as one of the most important works in the genre. Other notable musicians include Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy, and Sun Ra.


Existentialism music is characterized by its focus on individual expression and improvisation. Musicians often use dissonant chords, unconventional time signatures, and complex harmonies to create a sense of tension and unease. This reflects the existentialist philosophy’s emphasis on confronting difficult truths about human existence.

The lyrics in existentialism songs often deal with themes like alienation, isolation, and despair. They often feature imagery that evokes a sense of loneliness or emptiness. This reflects the underlying belief that human beings are fundamentally alone in an indifferent universe.

Influence on Modern Music

Existentialism music has had a significant impact on modern-day music across a variety of genres. The emphasis on individual expression and improvisation can be seen in genres like hip hop, where freestyle rap battles and improvisation are commonplace. The use of unconventional time signatures and complex harmonies can be seen in genres like math rock and experimental music.

The themes explored in existentialism music have also influenced modern music. Many contemporary musicians, such as Radiohead, have been influenced by the genre’s emphasis on confronting difficult truths about human existence. The sense of alienation and isolation that is often present in existentialism music can be seen in the lyrics of many contemporary artists.


Existentialism music is a genre that arose out of the mid-20th century jazz scene. It is characterized by its emphasis on individual expression, improvisation, and the exploration of difficult existential questions.

The genre has had a significant influence on modern-day music across a variety of genres. Its legacy can be seen in everything from hip hop to experimental music to the lyrics of contemporary artists.