Part 239: Music for Your Mental Health

MENTAL

RECORD STORE TALES Part 239:
Music for Your Mental Health

Music can be absolutely vital to the human psyche.  I don’t know why it is, but the auditory sensation of vibrating air molecules that we call sound has an undeniable effect once modulated into music.  Some people find themselves drawn to the music, some the singing, others just the words.  Nobody experiences music exactly the same way, but for many of us, it has the ability to lift our spirits high.

I had a customer, who had been coming in for many years, who was diagnosed with a fairly common mental disorder.  He didn’t find it a  pleasant disorder to deal with.  The young man who I’ll call Billy had made a suicide attempt.  I didn’t see him for a while.  When I did see him come back, he had changed his appearance.  Gone was the long hair and beard.  What did not disappear was his love of music, which seemed to manifest itself even stronger after his attempt.

Billy had suddenly rediscovered 80’s new wave music, and with it modern electronica, techno, and trance.  He became extremely passionate.  He was especially fond of any and all New Order.  These artists in turn introduced him to the relaxing sounds of New Age music.  I couldn’t say it for certain, but if I had to make an observation, I would conjecture that the music gave him more focus and something to feel good about.

Soon, listening to music wasn’t enough anymore.  Billy wanted to make music.

His family were supportive.  Over the few years that I knew him, his family purchased for him the best computers, the best synthesizers, and encouraged him every step.  He dad acted as his manager.  They would come in periodically, looking for electronic music, and eager to update me on his musical progress.

“The CD is coming along well,” Billy would say.  “It’s going to be very relaxing, very dreamlike, and calming.  It’s great music.  I’m very excited.  My dad is helping me, we’re going to put a CD out.”

And put a CD out he did.   I’m far from the most knowledgeable person about electronic music, but it sounded good to me.  I could tell he put a lot of work into the tracks.  He did it all himself.  His extraordinary story got him some newspaper coverage too.  The best part was, the CD was really good.  I wouldn’t let him just give me a copy, I made a point of buying one.  I had to support my customer!

Music can be such a positive force.  It’s one of the few things I know of that can bring 100,000 people together.  It can change brain chemistry, and it can help us feel all kinds of emotions.  It can make you want to get up and dance, or make love, or play air guitar.  It can make you feel better and draw you in deeper.

Sometimes, I think about what music means to me personally.  I know it helped me survive.  Would Billy would have survived without music?  Would any of us?  There’s no way to know.  I do know that I am glad I got to know Billy.  He taught me that music really can change the world in powerful ways.

21 comments

  1. Amen, brother. Music really is the Universal language, and even though everyone hears things differently, it’s still all understood.

    When James and I started the KMA all those years ago, this was our thinking. Here is a bit of the About page from the KMA: “The name Keeps Me Alive comes from an old Black Flag song called Room 13. Aaron loves Black Flag. A lot. But more than that, music really does keep us alive. It fuels us and excites us. It helps us through those long, bitter winter nights. It is the soundtrack of our lives.”

    There’s an excellent book (which I have here) that goes into what we all intuitively understand, the relationship between music and brain (offering case studies).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musicophilia:_Tales_of_Music_and_the_Brain

    Like

    1. I do want to clarify something here — in my experience I have met people who could get violent or depressed quite easily depending on music — but those people had pre-existing health issues, mental and otherwise. The music wasn’t the cause but a certain type of music could trigger this person into a depressive or violent state.

      But as a general statement, I know what you mean. The people who blamed Ozzy for inciting suicides, or Judas Priest, Marilyn Manson, or anyone else. That kind of thing is ridiculous because it always boils down to other issues. Family problems, abuse, bullying, etc.

      But I just wanted to be clear because to be factually accurate, I did know people who had certain songs that could trigger them. It’s not the “cause” per se but it is the trigger.

      Like

    1. I know people who say they don’t like music, like my dad. But I’ve seen my dad tapping his toes to the music if he likes it. He likes marching bands and old Italian songs!

      So I submit that as evidence that even people who say they don’t like music, do like music.

      Like

  2. This is absolutely great, Mike! Music inspires, gives joy and comfort, and exhilarates the soul. I don’t know what I would do without it. My tastes in music are eclectic, to say the least. I can go from listening to a Beethoven symphony to headbanging rock without a blink. The only thing I don’t care for is rap, but even that has its’ uses.

    Like

    1. Thanks BeeDee, much appreciated. I have jazz, classical, everything in my collection. Even rap! If you wanna call Rage Against the Machine rap, it’s certainly metal with rapping. And I own one Puff Daddy single with Jimmy Page.

      I’m proud to have reviewed jazz, classical, country and pop on this site. I haven’t reviewed any blues that I can remember but I own lots.

      Like

  3. Music is what got me through my childhood and teen years. It was a method of escape. And New Order, in particular, got me through some of my dark days, particularly the early New Order (Movement, Power Corruption and Lies, Brotherhood). It was dark, I was feeling dark…

    Like

Rock a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s