“If music be the food of love, play on!”
(Twelfth Night 1.1, William Shakespeare)
I have always loved music, of nearly all genres. From growing up in a country town with my father’s version of religion, being classical music played on high volume waking us from our Sunday morning sleep-in; to spending an hour on the bus to school and an hour back home, listening to the local radio station playing pop and rock songs and begging the driver to turn up the volume when a favourite song came on the radio and memorising all the words; to translating Bob Dylan songs into French instead of doing my homework (!), music became a big part of my life.
A highlight of uni was going to see Midnight Oil at the Student Union Building before they became famous and dancing up the front being showered by Peter Garrett’s sweat (yes, I am that old!). We used to listen to pub bands, go out clubbing, and get together at each other’s houses, all to music. It was the soundtrack to my life. It was something I used to change my mood, to make me feel a certain way.
When our children were young, we used to watch ‘Spicks and Specks’ and they were astonished that I could recognise a piece of music within the first few notes. Music is a very visceral experience and it is literally felt in my body. When I hear it, my body vibrates and resonates with the piece and my body recognises it before my mind does.
One of my anaesthetists uses music to settle patients before giving them the eye block and because I am now a similar vintage to many of my patients, I recognise and resonate with the music they choose to play. It often takes me back to the time in my life when it was released, or reminds me of the people I was with at the time, much like a perfume can.
Music and work
A great challenge for me was finding the ‘right’ music to play at work. The mood of the whole space can be affected by the music we play (if we choose to play it) as well as the vibration of our voices in the room, which is also a type of music.
I have tried playing all sorts of music, but everyone has an opinion about music, and their own likes and dislikes, which can cause a dissonance, rather than a resonance in the room. I used to play soothing New age style music in theatre but not everyone loves that and then other people want to play something else and it can become a source of disharmony. I have been in theatres where people play loud rock-and-roll music and I cannot cope with that at all! Plus any music or background noise interferes with the attention I am paying to the sounds of the machines I use to operate and also my often deaf patients’ ability to hear me speaking, so I have settled for no music but the dulcet sounds of the phaco machine and our voices in theatre.
At the office, I also tried every genre of music in the waiting room but again, everyone has their likes and dislikes and wants ‘their’ music playing, if they don’t like ‘your’ music. I have had patients come in and turn up the volume on the CD player and start dancing around; stop the music and put another CD in without asking permission; and bring me their own CDs with an expectation I would play them (yes, I do live and work near Byron Bay!) and my staff also found some of my musical choices challenging.
I finally found the perfect music to play in the office waiting room, called The Music Suites, by Chris James. https://www.themusicsuite.online/
I cannot recommend this series highly enough. My staff find it restful and supportive (they call it the day spa music) and it helps them to stay settled and steady despite the intensity that can come down the phone and in the door and my patients actually enjoy waiting in the waiting room now (which is great, if you are running late!) They relax, settle and sometimes even fall asleep, so by the time I see them, they are not as anxious as when they came in and it is far easier to help them deal with their problems. The music is universally loved … in fact, the only complaints I get about music now are that I have not left people waiting for long enough to enjoy more of it!
Music and home
Music can also affect the way we feel at home and I have learned to only play music that helps us to settle, if any, when I am winding down at the end of the day, rather than music that winds us up and makes it more difficult to settle to sleep. I save more upbeat music for car trips or while I am cooking food or doing other activities at home during the day.
Honestly, I so love the sound of silence these days that less and less music is required to accompany me through life. My mood is pretty light and steady now too, so I don’t feel such a need to use music to create or change a mood in me. As I have changed, and become more steady and settled within, so have my tastes in music changed.
Music is a vibration
“Musick has charms to sooth a savage Breast,
To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.”
The Mourning Bride, William Congreve, 1697
The thing I have come to learn about music is that it is first and foremost a vibration, that is felt in the body. We think we are listening to something with our ears, and we are, but we are primarily resonating with the vibration of it and it can literally change the way we feel. Music is very powerful and it is wise to be aware of how it is making us feel and discerning whether that is something we want to feel, or not. It is used to manipulate our emotions far more than we realise, as the soundtrack to movies and TV shows, on social media, at shopping centres, and in life in general.