This is a reply ... well, a tangential musing, on something Mikaela said in her post on Sad Songs vs. Happy Songs.
"Does the audience really need my help processing good emotions?" In other words, what is the purpose of writing happy songs?
Why does beauty bring a tear to the eye? It seems like beauty at its highest degree is too beautiful to say it inspires mere "happiness". Rather it seems to instill a type of wisdom, which transcends happiness. Similarly great suffering has the potential to instill a type of wisdom that transcends mere "sadness". In his creation myth at the beginning of the Silmarillion, Tolkien assigns to Nienor among all the Vala the unique combination of mourning and wisdom. As a personality of melancholic temperament, Tolkien had I think an insight into the connection between wisdom and sadness. And as a Catholic, he had access to that Faith's at-first odd combination of ultimate optimism and immediate resignation to suffering. John Paul II wrote of something similar in his letter on the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering, saying that there was a profound depth of meaning and wisdom to be found uniquely in profound suffering. There are always people embittered by the Problem of Pain. But the fact that there are some people like Immaculee Ilibagiza and Walter Ciszek show that such hard-earned wisdom is there to be found.
Also related to this probably is an essay Edgar Allen Poe wrote about The Raven (I read it a while ago and don't have it in front of me): Poe wanted his poem to invoke beauty, and he felt it was easier to invoke beauty from the context of tragedy: in the case of The Raven, a lost love.
All this is to say that I think Mikaela is on to something when she is at peace with the predominantly melancholic nature of her inspiration. "Even when I am offering something more positive," she says, "there is still an element of the bittersweet."
Art's object is beauty, and beauty and its attendant wisdom are usually appreciated better through suffering, when we have a chance to grow our souls, than in happiness, where we have no incentive to change. And suffering in general cuts deeper than happiness, reaching to parts of our soul that, being human, are destined for the divine, and for which nothing on this earth can ultimately suffice. So a certain restraint in happiness, a knowledge that no present happiness is truly enough, a certain "element of the bittersweet" is appropriate to beauty, and wisdom, and art. In the same way, a certain restraint is also required in sadness and mourning, due to the knowledge that no good thing is truly gone if we are destined for God, and no bad thing can ultimately conquer us if He be with us.
Despair, apart from its being psychologically damaging and generally unpleasant, is a factual error, since Forgiveness exists beyond our most awful capacity to sin or even dream of sinning. But while God wants us to be happy, He does not want us to be taken in by anything less than the Best, so programmed into us is a nagging melancholy, stronger in some of us than others, the slightest of twitches from our deepest depths, meant to recall to us that whatever makes us happy here, is not ultimately enough.
We have as humans an infinite capacity for happiness, and we seek pleasurable highs, mimics of real happiness, in all the most intense experiences in life: from sex to drugs to bungee-jumping to mathematics (or whatever floats your boat). But we only really do justice to this amazing human capacity when we temper each happiness and enjoyment with a reminder that there is always a Higher and a Greater, and what is more tragic than losing a great love and a great reward at the end of the road because we were distracted along the way by a shiny toy? It's so easy to be distracted by whatever plays the role of Shiny Toy at various stages in my life, but it seems that only true beauty, and art that is truly beautiful, manages to remind me of the Greater Beauty waiting for me.