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September 15, 2013 / paulio10

Music as Medicine

The human psyche is fragile – lots of things can upset you or anger you.  Then, if you aren’t able to control yourself, you hurt people around you, making their lives harder than they already are. If you are able to control yourself despite you’re upset feelings, that conflict between your suppressed anger and normal behavior creates conflict within you which can be even more destructive – to you now, and to others later.

What can you do to calm yourself? Feel like you aren’t all alone? To make you human again, as they say? If you could escape for 3-4 minutes into a better place, that would help a lot. If you had someone to connect with you in the emotion you’re in right now, all would change.

Music can make that happen.

What ails you Emotionally, today?

When I’m really angry at the world I like (need) angry sounding music that has predictability to me (such as songs I have heard many times so I know what it will do). Or maybe I am frustrated with life; feel stuck, trapped; there’s music for that too. Am I living in my mind right now?  There’s music for that.  Am I living in my emotions? There’s such a rich variety out there to discover.  Am I crying because I miss my parents who passed away a few years ago?  I learned to let the feelings just come; but also, the right music can make me feel a lot better.

Sometimes I tune in to end-of-the-world vibe that people feel in our world.  It was very strong around the late 1990s and early 2000s; you can hear it strongly in pop music of that time.  Can you find music that connects with you when you’re like that, and lift you up to a level of freedom somewhat above where you are right now? DOn’t hide from your emotions, don’t convince yourself that you shouldn’t feel that way”.  If you’re feeling it, you’re feeling it.  Everything has a beginning, a middle, and an end.  Embrace it. Emotions are like water, they come and go, they change all the time.

You might find a band you really like, but even better is when you can find a genre of music that you like a lot (i.e. “trip hop”), so you can find more bands and songs that fit you the best.  Don’t be afraid to listen to new music; I skip forward in songs to hear 3-4 parts of it if I can, then skip to the next song, to get a feel for a whole album; then skip to the next album when I realize it’s not what I like, for whatever reason. I don’t have to explain it, I just know it when I hear it.

Music discovery services like Pandora are wonderful. Type in a band or a song title, it will play music similar to it. You can find new bands and songs you super-like but never heard of before.  It’s powerful. Nowadays there are more choices than ever before for music subscriptions, recommendation, and seeing what peers like, and so forth.  I love what the Internet has done to help me experience what other people have decided are songs and bands that are similar to each other. Sometimes you’ll find a band you would never have found any other way, thanks to one of these services. Example: if you like Depeche Mode, have you heard Mesh yet?

It’s funny when a song gets stuck in your head. Sometimes when that happens to me I have no idea what song it is, but I want to listen to it now, because it’s been bugging me for the past 8 hours – or sometimes 2 or 3 days.  I can simply type in a string of lyrics into Google Search, and it’s amazing – I can usually find the band name and song name that way.  Then I can usually find a way to play the song, or at least part of the song, and even buy it on-line very easily if I want to listen to it again in the near future.  It’s really great.

Music for Mental Work

I am a software developer by trade. I have learned that there are two types of concentration that I go through when programming software: planning (figuring out what approach to take that will actually solve the problem at hand), and coding (writing the software to achieve the plan I just figured out).  For Planning, I need silence – music does not help, it only messes me up and slows me down. I need quiet for that phase.  But for Coding, energetic music really helps a lot – I really like strong female vocals and music that excites me, like fast rock or punk. I also love listening to music that is perfectly edited and mixed, so that it has a rhythm in multiples of 4, 8, 16, in the way that makes sense to me, like trip-hop or electronic music of certain types.

Future Music – Musicians as Physicians

Good healing music meets you where you are, emotionally and mentally – it agrees with you, and tells you that many other people have been there before, and it’s OK – it’s OK to be you, and be right where you are.  Then it does something unusual – it uplifts you to your next level.  The next higher state of beauty, of goodness, of justice, joy, and freedom.  It reconnects you with the greatness within you, just a bit. It doesn’t punch you in the face with it, it just points and says, “Hey! Look over there. Remember? That’s you, too.”

Future musicians will think about the kinds of emotional ailments people can suffer from, and experiment to find the best ways of meeting those people where they are and uplifting them to their next-level.

Who says that an “album” of songs has to be played in a specific order, with a first song, second song, etc.? That’s old fashioned. In the future, an “album” may consist of multiple entry-point songs to start from, based on whether you’re angry/hurt/sad/ill/tired, and bring you to a central spot – then uplift you level by level, one level per song, up to a very high point, higher than you could have managed to reach during your ordinary daily life. A calming, harmonious ending to a possibly frustrating day of life.

Who says that songs even have to consist of the exactly same notes, in the exact same order? There are many ways for music to create a single feeling, or a range of feelings; great musical performers know how to vary their music to fit their audience. What if an “album” consisted of many recordings of the same songs, so that each time you played the album you heard a different arrangement of songs achieving the same goals of upliftment? Each time you played it, you heard a different meandering path that brought you to the final uplifted state.  That would be awesome. And it’s totally achievable with today’s technology.

Find what Works for You

The important thing is that you find the music that works for you.  Music taste is as distinctly individual as fingerprints or handwriting.  I shouldn’t recommend any musical group to you because you will either like it or hate it, and I have no way of knowing how it will be received.  It depends on so many factors including your age (what kind of music you grew up with), where you are in your life, how you were raised, what struggles you’re facing, what you’ve already conquered in your life, and many other factors you are probably thinking about right now. In fact, any two people can listen to the same song and get different things out of it.

I noticed that I have changed the kinds of music I like to listen to, over time.  One of my favorite bands around age 25-35 was Garbage, I just loved the electronic sound and the power of Shirley Manson’s voice, she even can whisper powerfully when she sings.  It’s good stuff. I still like it, but I don’t really listen to it much anymore; I think I have outgrown it now; on to something else.

Unusual Songs

When I began writing this article I promised myself I wouldn’t list specific bands and songs, because everyone is different. But right now I feel like listing some unusual songs that have meant a whole lot to me at one time or another. Most of these do not fit into any category, but create a soundscape or an emotionscape that I really connected with at different times. These are not my favorite songs, just unusual ones that make me wonder.  I arranged them here by energy. (The videos aren’t the important part, just the songs.)

Police – Walking On The Moon

Red Hot Chili Peppers – Under The Bridge

Billy Joel – The River of Dreams

We Are Scientists – Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt

Garbage – Push It

These songs don’t have to mean anything to you. What songs bug you like that, because they connect to you like nothing else you know? What do they mean to you?


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