Music Hath Charms...

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

By: Christopher Cline

Okay, this message has nothing to do with the markets or the C word. I assume that, like me, you’d like a short break from hearing about the Dow, social distancing, rates of infection and sheltering in place. So I thought we’d try to give ourselves some relief by turning to my favorite non-economic subject: music.

During this difficult time, we all need to take care of ourselves. By now, everyone’s heard all the safety precautions more than once, so I thought it might be good to look at a different health practice. Listening to (or better, playing) music is not just pleasant, it’s actually healthy. I borrowed the following from the website https://bebrainfit.com/music-brain/ on the benefits of music on the brain:

  • Science has now proven what music lovers already know, that listening to upbeat music can improve your mood. Listening to and playing music reduces chronic stress by lowering the stress hormone cortisol.  Music can make you feel more hopeful, powerful, and in control of your life.
  • Listening to sad music has its benefits, too. If you are going through a tough time, listening to sad music can be cathartic. It can help you get in touch with your emotions to help you heal.
  • One of the ways music affects mood is by stimulating the formation of certain brain chemicals. Listening to music increases the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is the brain’s “motivation molecule” and an integral part of the pleasure-reward system. It’s the same brain chemical responsible for the feel-good states obtained from eating chocolate and runner’s high. When listening to a playlist, you can further increase dopamine by choosing shuffle mode. When one of your favorite songs unexpectedly comes up, it triggers an extra dopamine boost.
  • Playing music with others or enjoying live music [if that’s even possible now] stimulates the brain hormone oxytocin.   Oxcytocin has been called the “trust molecule” and the “moral molecule” since it helps us bond with and trust others. There’s evidence that the oxytocin bump experienced by music lovers can make them more generous and trustworthy. 

In other words, we could all do with a little more music in our lives. In that spirit, I thought I’d share my “anti-coronavirus” playlist. With streaming services, you should be able to get these all on a single list. This is in no particular order or genre preference, although I mostly tried to pick more obscure pieces you may not have heard before:

  1. J. S. Bach -- Anything. Bach might be the best anti-coronavirus music available. You can listen to almost any of his compositions (although I’d avoid the longer choral works); my favorites are the Cello Suites, the Italian Concerto for piano (especially the second slow movement), the Brandenburg Concertos and the Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor.
  2. Antonin Dvorak -- Humoresque. It tells a story that’s happy and lighthearted, then melancholy, then happy once again, a hopeful metaphor that we can all use right now.
  3. John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman – “My One and Only Love” (from the album, “John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman”). Actually, just listen to the whole album.
  4. Sara Bareilles – “Satellite Call” (from the album, “The Blessed Unrest”).
  5. John Hiatt – “Real Fine Love” or “Have a Little Faith in Me” (from the album, “Anthology”).
  6. Van Morrison – “Into the Mystic” (from the album, “Moondance”).
  7. Ahn Trio – “Dies Irie” (from the album, “Lullaby for My Favorite Insomniac”).
  8. Miles Davis – “It Never Entered My Mind” (from the album, “Workin’”). And while you’re at it, get the entire “Kind of Blue” album; it’s the one jazz album everyone needs to have.
  9. Chanticleer – “Cells Planets” (from the album, “Chanticleer Takes You out of This World”).
  10.  Ryuichi Sakamoto – “Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence” (from the album, “Playing the Piano”).
  11.  Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – “Hope the High Road” (from the album, “The Nashville Sound”). This one’s a little loud, but the website said upbeat was good.

I hope you find this little diversion fun and not annoying. Whether you like my list or not, music should be an important part of your health routine, especially if you’re stuck at home.