This is the last in a series of four (4) articles on music and how it acts as a healing agent for those who grieve a loss. In earlier sessions, we discussed the health benefits of listening to music and examined its use to direct attention away from our uneasy surroundings. Last month, we explored how music acts as a companion when we are alone. This month, we’ll look at some ideas on music styles that may benefit listeners as they move through the grief process.
There are times when I speak to hospice and grief organizations about the benefits of music during the time of grief resolution. And I’m often asked questions about music assisting individuals experiencing grief. They are good questions and ones that you might have as well. I’d like to share them and my responses with you.
QUESTION: What is the “best” music to listen to when moving through grief?
RESPONSE: I’m not sure there is a “best” music. The best or right music is ultimately a personal choice. The only criteria is this; that the music brings you some form of pleasure at the time you listen to it.
QUESTION: What do other people listen to when grieving?
RESPONSE: There’s a wide range of music people seek out. Besides songs that they grew up to or songs that connect them to the person they lost, people will choose other styles of music.
One is sound scape music. Sometimes called “trance music,” sound-scape music is mostly associated with avant-garde composers who use electronic instruments and synthesizers to create their work. Sound-scapes play a trick on the mind. Generally when a song begins, the brain will stand at attention and wait for the melody to start. But in a sound-scape recording, there is no melody. So the mind is forced to rest and be enveloped in only a continuous fabric of harmonious sound. This fabric or “pad” of music does not rise and fall below a certain pitch which also makes it very popular with many who meditate, practice yoga and “just chill.”
Furthermore, though it’s not considered music, some people like to listen to environmental recordings. They are simple, peaceful, continuous sounds of nature, such as chirping birds, rain and thunderstorms or ocean waves as they reach the shore.
Then there are individuals who turn to melody and traditional musicianship. For these people there is much to choose from. There are many talented musicians with recordings that feature a solo instrument such as guitar and harp. There are music CDs where two (2) instruments play together, such as piano and flute. Others prefer hearing all the instruments of the orchestra. Classical music is popular. So is new age, ambient, relaxation and cinematic music or music that feels like it belongs as a soundtrack to a motion picture.
QUESTION: Is instrumental music better to listen to than songs with words?
RESPONSE: I’m not sure if it’s better because again, it’s a personal choice. However, I do believe there are a few advantages to listening to instrumental recordings. When I lost my parents a few years back, I found softer, slower, soothing, instrumental music to be the most helpful. Instrumentals were easy to listen to. I also found music that was “beat-less” or with a minimal amount of rhythm and percussion, slowed my body down, enabled me to relax which in turned, helped me to get centered.
QUESTION: Where can I buy this kind of music?
RESPONSE: Besides the large entertainment centers, there is the web. One company is cdbaby. They are the largest distributor of music by independent musicians in the country. They are at: www.cdbaby.com. Search the different genres, click on any of those albums and you can read about the album and artist and listen to selections available to see if you like the music before purchasing.
Another thing I suggest is to look at the album cover when shopping. Do you connect with the picture/illustration on the cover? Does it convey an image that invites you to listen to the music? Also, on the back of the CD, there are often liner notes that explain what the music is intended for.
QUESTION: Can you offer any tips on listening to get the most enjoyment and relaxation?
RESPONSE: First, I think music should be played at or just above the level of your voice in a normal conversation. In addition, listening with head phones can help to shut out surrounding sounds. Closing your eyes will also help you to focus more on the music and less on your surroundings; such as straightening the picture on the wall across the room! Furthermore, I suggest you listen to the selection all the way to the end of the piece. This time is meant for you so don’t rush it…enjoy it!
Finally, there’s a theory that sequencing music can be effective in altering your mood. Sequencing is when you select a series of different musical compositions that will transition you from one mood to another. For example, rather than say, “I’m depressed, I’ll listen to something joyful,” it is suggested that the listener sequence out of depression.
Select a piece which reflects your current mood. Then another selection that is not so depressing to something lighter and so forth. The belief is that you first honor the mood you are in and then gradually move toward a different and maybe healthier state of mind.
Thank you for allowing me to share some of my ideas on music these last few months. I hope they have helped you to see how musical notes turn into “healing notes” when we are grieving a loss. Music is healthy. Music is nurturing. And there is a smorgasbord of it in front of you. Use it often and enjoy it. In the words of the late Michael Jackson, “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough.”
Tony Falzano is an award winning songwriter who has written hundreds of songs in a variety of musical genres. Over a 35 year career, he has written pop, country and R&B tunes. He has penned jingles for radio and TV and composed music for the musical stage. In addition, he has produced a cabaret of his own work. His music has also been associated with a number of special projects.
Today, he composes music to help people feel calm, centered and relaxed. His music CD titled, “In Abba’s Arms”, contains 12 melodic, instrumental compositions that are an “inspirational companion” to those searching for healing and hope. The CD is also used by those who meditate, expectant mothers and for everyday quiet contemplation. His music is played on internet radio.
After graduating from college, Tony studied piano with Richard Volpe and Richard Delany and then musical theatre with the legendary Lehman Engel. He studied songwriting in New York and Nashville with hit making songwriters. While in Nashville, he was The Projects Director for the Songwriter’s Guild. In this position he designed educational programs for songwriters on the art and business of songwriting.
Currently, Tony is an adjunct professor in the music department at Monroe Community College, Rochester, New York. He teaches Songwriting and Lyric-writing, Music Business and The History of Rock and Roll. In 2007, he was included in Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers. He is the author of “The Lyric Writing Workbook”, a 275 page textbook designed to educate writers to be better communicators as they write words to music. The textbook is used on the college level.
A member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) and the Songwriters Hall of Fame, Tony is the owner of Monica Street Music, a publishing company designed to publish his music. Included in this catalog is the CD, “In Abba’s Arms.” A 2nd CD is planned for a September, 2009 release. To hear Tony’s CD go to: www.cdbaby.com/cd/Falzano