by Jess Szabo; Arts Writer
Mental Health Month returns for May 2023. This year, we honor the month and the music with five facts about music and mood, memory, therapy, and other aspects of mental health.
Songs getting stuck in your head can cause everything from happiness to mild irritation to genuine anxiety. At Harvard, they once took this seriously enough to study it.
An article in the October 4, 2017 edition of the Harvard Health Blog titled, “Why you can’t get a song out of your head and what tod to do about it,” According to the article’s author, Dr. Srini Pillay, the songs most likely to get stuck in your head are” those in which the pitch rose and fell in ways that made them easier to sing…and the music had some unique intervals between notes that made the song stand out.”
Dr. Pillay goes on to note that people with certain personality traits, or in certain mental states, are more likely to get songs stuck in their heads. These traits include being neurotic, being prone to anxiety, and being open to new experiences. Pillay adds that having a musical background may also make you more likely to get songs stuck in your head. Temporary states that may open you up to getting a song stuck in your head include times of high stress, feelings of nostalgia, or being in a dreamy state.
Music therapy is a type of professional mental health treatment that blends professional talk therapy with music.
Those who love music often describe music as their therapy, or know that listening to or playing music can help alleviate anxiety or depression, help with grief, boost memory, and boost mental energy. But simply listening to music is not the same thing as receiving professional mental health care.
Music therapy is a form of treatment that blends both of these fields. According to the Cleveland Clinic, one does not have to be a musician to benefit from music therapy. Their website on treatments and procedures includes a sheet on music therapy. The document explains that a session may include activities such as writing, singing, or playing music. But it may also involve listening to music, discussing lyrics, or moving to music. The only person who needs specialized training is the therapist. Music therapy is practiced by licensed mental health professionals.
The song “Weightless” by Marconi Union is believed to be so relaxing, it is suggested that people not listen to it while driving.
Marconi Union is a British ambient music band. They formed in 2003 and continue to play music today. Ambient music does not rely on traditional musical structures and is instead designed to create atmosphere and invoke moods through the careful arrangement of sounds.
And if effectiveness defines success, Marconi Union’s “Weightless” is perhaps one of the most successful ambient songs out there. Listening to the song reportedly lowers cortisol levels, reduces blood pressure, and lowers the heart rate. It just does it so well, people often become drowsy or even fall asleep. This of course makes it dangerous to listen to while driving a car or operating any type of vehicle or power tool.
The term “The Mandela effect” is used to describe the collective misremembering of facts. When everybody seems to misremember song lyrics, it is called a “mondegreen.”
The Mandela effect occurs when large numbers of people remember facts incorrectly. The term comes from people “remembering” Nelson Mandela dying in prison, when he in fact was released and went on to serve as President of South Africa. When lyrics are misheard and misremembered in a similar manner, it is known as a “mondegreen.” The term “mondegreen” originated in the 1950’s, when journalist Sylvia Wright misheard the line “O they have slain the Earl of Morray and laid him on the green” as “O they have slain the Earl of Morray and Lady Mondegreen” in the Scottish folk song “The Bonny Earl of Morray.”
Perhaps the most famous modern example of a mondegreen is “Excuse me while I kiss this guy” from the Jimi Hendrix song “Purple Haze.” The actual lyric is “Excuse me while I kiss the sky.”
Pop rock band “Train” supports the mental well-being of the families of sick children in the Bay Area through selling wine named after their songs.
“Family House” is a non-profit founded in 1981. It provides comfortable, clean, stress-free temporary housing to the families of children receiving treatment at the University of California-San Francisco Benioff Children’s Hospital. Families are housed together in an eighty-bedroom building with communal dining, living, and laundry spaces.
Train’s official website provides a link to purchase wine through their “Save me San Francisco Wine Company.” Each wine is named after one of their most famous songs. While no wines were listed for sale as of April 26, 2023, past offerings have included a red named “Drops of Jupiter” and a Chardonnay named “Calling All Angels.” A special edition wine appears to have recently sold out. All proceeds from the sales of Train’s branded wine goes to Family House.
The intersection of music and mental health cannot be overstated. Music impacts our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and more, in the ways described here, and far beyond.