Grace Notes: How music helped me to settle in

I have been living in Sweden for just over two months and I’m now feeling pretty settled and normal, almost like I belong here. Even the language is becoming less of a mystery, and I’m starting to pick up bits and bobs of conversations in Swedish, although I have little to no chance of being able to form a reply yet…

However, I found the first few weeks here hard. Some days would be fine, but others I’d feel very far away from everything and a little lost. This was often because I’d seen a post on Facebook or Instagram from a friend back home doing something that had I not moved, I would be doing too.

Lodging in a flat means that I spend a fair amount of time on my own, and while most of the time I find it refreshing (and it’s nice to be able to put on pjs at 6pm and not be judged), sometimes I wasn’t able to shut off my brain completely and I’d get myself worrying over nothing and then stress out and not be able to get anything done.

The one thing that I found really made it easier though was listening to music. Every day I have a half an hour walk into faculty and I listen to my iPod the whole way. I don’t listen to things I am studying or pieces we are about to play in a concert, but tunes that I know really well and associate happy memories with. It also gave me a chance to really appreciate the beautiful scenery around me and watch the seasons change, without my mind being clouded with things I need to do, or was missing out on.

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Walking home in the summer evening

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Watching the colours change into autumn

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One of the first frosts (it got down to -4, but I’m told it’ll get much colder….)

For me these included tracks like ‘Ziggy Stardust’ by David Bowie, ‘Can You Forgive Her’ by the Pet Shop Boys, ‘Ballad of the Great Eastern’ by Sting, or ‘Comfortably Numb’ by Pink Floyd. These songs change on a daily basis, but if I was to choose a few things to listen to now, it would be the above tracks.

By giving myself that half an hour or so to and from college to shut off, let my mind wander and just get lost in the music, really helped to keep me from going crazy.

Even though I now feel pretty much at home here, I still have my walk and my music every morning and most evenings, and I really enjoy just being able to escape and let my mind wander wherever it chooses.

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Grace Notes: Getting Emotional to Music

I’ve often noticed that if I’m listening to music while walking, running or on a journey, it will seriously effect what I daydream about. I wondered if there was a psychological reason behind this, or if I just have a strange and overactive imagination…

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(I do not own this image)

For example, I went for a run earlier today and whilst running, ‘Into the West’ from the ‘Return of the King’ soundtrack came on my iPod. Now, I love this song, but it’s not great to run to. It kind of kills the mood and the lack of a fast beat makes me want to slow down and stop. So I changed it and put a whole load of The Pet Shop Boys on, so I could pretend I was in some sort of awesome fitness montage and actually good at running…. It worked though and got me going again so I completed my run.

Another instance was when I was walking home from work in Blackheath after ushering a very late concert finishing at midnight. To get home, I have to walk across a massive heath which is very open, dark and windy. I was quite happy walking along having a little groove to the ‘Joseph’ soundtrack when next up was the ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ soundtrack from the episode ‘Hush’ (see the video below). If you’ve seen that episode you’ll know the soundtrack is very prominent and creates nearly all of the atmosphere as there is practically no dialogue (everyone in Sunnydale has their voices stolen so they can’t scream when these terrifying demons cut out their hearts. Even now, this episode still gives me the creeps!). The techniques used are similar to other horror soundtracks (such as ‘Psycho’) with lots of high ‘twittering’ strings, ominous low brass and a creepy choral part. This was not what I needed when walking home on my own across a dark common. I changed it to some nice Seth Lakeman and my journey home was far more pleasant and no demons or scary monsters threatened to attack me. ­­­

I spent some time looking up how music effects our moods and emotions and came across a number of articles (linked below) that grabbed my interest. They all said in different ways that we are greatly affected my music in many ways, not just on an emotional level, but can be helpful to healing and stress. I obviously am surrounded by music almost all of the time. In Trinity Laban, I am either practicing, or can hear other people practicing and when at home one of us in the flat will have some music or the TV on. If we’ve had a stressful day, we’d naturally gravitate to upbeat ‘cheesy’ songs to sing along to and often this is the perfect relaxation technique.

http://www.fastcompany.com/3022942/work-smart/the-surprising-science-behind-what-music-does-to-our-brains

http://psychcentral.com/lib/music-how-it-impacts-your-brain-emotions/00017356

http://www.lightbridgemusic.com/power.htm

So if you’re ever having trouble working, exercising, relaxing, or anything else, take a moment to think if you’re listening to the best sort of thing to help you out. It sound far too simple to have any affect, but I think you’ll be surprised with the result!

Grace Notes: Music of the Week – October 3rd

Welcome to my first Music of the Week segment! The plan here is to share a couple of pieces that I’ve been enjoying over the seven days or so.

I’d like to start with Dvorak’s 12th string quartet, also known as the American Quartet. My quartet (http://www.horizonquartet.co.uk/) have recently started rehearsing this piece and I am enjoying it a lot as there are some great second violin bits. Throughout the quartet there are catchy  and lyrical melodies, making it very accessible – even to people who don’t listen to a lot of classical music. I particularly like the way that this piece paints pictures in my head. For example, the first movement reminds me of going down a river and watching nature drift by. The whole of the quartet takes part in the ‘painting’ of the scene, which, enhances the listening experience and makes it much more fun to work on in rehearsals!

The second piece of music I’d like to share is a song that I was listening to on the way to the wedding last week. I have been a fan of the Pet Shop Boys for a very long time and at the moment I think this is one of my favourite songs of theirs. It is ‘Can you Forgive her?’ recorded for their album ‘Very’ in 1993. I love how dramatic this song is, and it’s seriously catchy with a great chorus.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!