[To listen to an audio version of this blog please click here: https://soundcloud.com/user-231831520/sets/lost-in-music-playlist]
It has long been known that music can help people suffering with depression. Even in the bible, in 1 Samuel, 16, when King Saul suffers from "an evil spirit", the young shepherd boy David was brought in to play the lyre to him. Whenever the (dark) spirit came upon Saul, David would take the harp and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.
Others before me have written about the music that inspires them. Most recently Lex wrote about the guitar sound of The Edge from U2.
But I think it is not just music, but the way we listen to that music which makes it most efficacious to relieve our suffering.
It is easy to have music as the background to our tortured thoughts. The power of our mind is such that even the muscular intensity of Wagner can become mere posturing in the corner, and can even fuel the darkness if we are not watchful. We do have to consciously listen. To put it another way, we have to practise mindfulness when we listen. We have to immerse ourselves in the music, so that it drives all else away but itself.
I am lucky enough to have synaesthesia. For those of you who have not come across this term before, it means the condition whereby sensations are experienced simultaneously by more than one sense. For instance, I taste in sound, I smell in texture, and I see music in colour. There are other forms of synaesthesia; for instance, some people experience certain words in taste or colour, so that Wednesday is always yellow.
I have no idea what colour today is. But I can tell you the sound of a single violin is a sinuous line of green light, like an undulating laser beam; that the flute is a soft balloon covered with silvery brown fur – soft as chinchilla; that the clarinet is a smooth and polished shaft of flexible golden wood, the grain showing all along its length.
If I listen to music, really listen – as opposed to using it as soothing background noise while I drive round Cambridge in my Mini, or write, then it can encompass me totally, surrounding me with light and colour and kaleidoscopic shapes. It is a totally sensual experience that reaches deep down and fills my soul, so there is no room for the darkness.
For me it is always classical music; for some reason the colours don't work so well with pop and rock. Different composers and genres give different effects and satisfactions, from the mathematical patterns of Bach's violins, through the bronze and white-gold impact and fire of Listz's piano, to the ocean-wash of Gjeilo's choral works.
Next time you play music, close your eyes and listen; really listen, with all your senses. See what you can see, or taste, or feel. Get carried away by it; get lost in it, and leave your demons behind.
A Moodscope member.
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