Mental Health and Music

I  am going to be mildly controversial here. I listen to classical music, both because I enjoy it, but also because I think that it safeguards my mental health. Possibly there are some sorts of music that help you think, or decrease your stress. There are many studies on the subject, but I want to point out one interesting episode that made me wonder about the effect music has on the mind.

At one point I had the priviledge of hearing Tony Rymer (http://www.sphinxmusic.org/bio-tony-rymer.html ) play the cello. He played several things, but one of them was a Bach piece. I mention it because it is a favorite for cellists, and I have a Yo-yo Ma recording of the piece. I have listened to it a number of times.

I had never heard it played like this. I had never guessed at the depth of emotion. It nearly brought tears to my eyes, it was so powerful. I don’t say that easily.

I had to work that night. Right before I got off shift, one of the residents started perseverating about some things that he tends to obsess about, and it was necessary to give him medication in order to decrease his anxiety. This verbage is deliberately understated.

If we are talking about power of emotion, Tony Rymer pulled emotion out of his cello that was significantly more powerful that that of my resident. But the resident is in a psych facility and Mr. Rymer is quite clearly obviously sane. The depth and power of the emotion isn’t what can negatively affect one’s life. It is what one does with the emotion. Mr. Rymer pours it into his cello and the world is richer for the result. My resident obsessing about his life does not help anybody, least of all him.

I am neither a cellist whose talent is on an international scale, nor a person afflicted with a serious mental disease. However for all of us, the temptation to let our anxiety drive our lives is tremendous. I think music, particularly of an introspective variety (should that take the form of Mozart’s requiem or the Eagles’ Hotel California) may help us take back our own lives.

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