Louder Than Words

“If I still fight, it’s just that I’m afraid I’ll slide under that spell again”

Twice in my life did I have to consider the question ‘what makes music universal?’ (or something along those lines) in an exam question. The obvious answer, I think, is instrumental music, like soundtracks and orchestral pieces, because there are no words which can create any sort of barrier between cultures. Someone once commented here about how they enjoy the power of nostalgia that music can have and me being a huge Hans Zimmer geek, I can tell you the nostalgia is strong with his music. I remember once, after years of not watching The Lion King (which I used to watch literally every day when I was little), I heard his piece This Land and I flat-out cried. It still makes me emotional whenever I hear it.

Last year, I found these bands who play instrumental rock and they’re so fantastic. I use their music to study or to read usually because it has such a calming effect but also this kind of power in it, and when you’re planning to sit down for a 7 hour study session a sense of power is 100% needed. The band MONO is my favourite of this kind. They’re Japanese and their album For My Parents just gives me goosebumps. I actually managed to read an entire book in one day because it kept me relaxed and turning those pages.

Besides instrumentals, I wanted to talk about music in different languages. Now I really love Iceland (if my friend is reading this, she’s probably rolling her eyes and smiling right now because I REALLY love Iceland). It’s a country I’m dying to visit so that I can see all of that nature up close and personal. Plus the fact that nature takes up more than half of the space than actual people gives me this impression of still, calm quiet which I feel everyone needs from time to time. I also really like the language so getting into Icelandic music was not difficult. There are several bands I’m into but Sigur Ros takes the cake. They have a song that forces me to stop what I’m doing, sit down and listen every time. A lot of the time I find that when I’m listening to it, my face involuntarily screws up into this expression of emotion because the song is so tragically beautiful that I can’t help it.

This is the kind of stuff that I think probably has more of an effect on listeners than any other music because it transcends words. It appeals to something other than your understanding of lyrics and I think that goes a lot deeper.


Fuck It, I’m Okay

“That’s why sad songs make me happy
‘Cause I don’t have to feel alone”


I wanted to start this post with that picture because before I read it, I didn’t even realise just how many anxiety attacks I’ve actually had. Because, yes, I pretty much thought that they were always hyperventilating and rocking back and forth, but it turns out I’ve experienced all of those many times.

Today, I wanted to talk about an anxiety attack that I had the day before the start of this semester. It was a pretty bad one (of the unpredictable bouts of rage variety) and, incidentally, it happened because of the lecturer of the study-unit that has me writing this blog. It was a stupid reason that I had this attack but then again most of the thoughts that circle your head when these things happen are illogical and you know they’re probably not true but they still terrify you anyway.

So here’s a story: the week before the first lecture of this unit, I received an email from this lecturer asking the students to find any online resource which we can use to present who we are to the class, and send it to him. First of all, he said it should take about 2 minutes to find this thing that describes us but I spent around 5 days thinking about it because, naturally, it spun me into an existential crisis of who the hell am I? Also, he used the word ‘present’ which meant I’d have to talk in front of a whole class (THE HORROR) and that didn’t do any favours for the way my mind works. So, yes, I spent the entire week worrying about this tiny thing which was a huge thing for me and by the Sunday before the lecture, it had all built up and exploded into a very angry anxiety attack. Don’t you just love the irrationality of it all? Thanks, S.A.D.

I couldn’t sit still at all and I felt so much anger all at once. I started pacing around the house and felt like I needed to hit something, so I did. I screamed into a pillow and cried and I went kind of nuts. And because by this time I had some reasoning skills imparted to me from my therapy sessions, I turned to the music that always calms me down. Of course, for this kind of situation, I needed a different type of music than usual and this is where I digress.

Music is a very personal thing, right, I mean, people tend to be very picky about what they like to listen to. About 80% of the time, if I can relate to the lyrics, then chances are I will like the song no matter the genre. For instance, I never thought I would be able to stand rap but after certain Hollywood Undead songs and Twenty One Pilots, I am now more inclined to give it a chance. The point of this digression is that different styles of music can help you out for different moods and, for me, the best genre for my anxiety, particularly the anger kind, is metal. I prefer metalcore because I need some clean vocals in there but overall I feel it’s just the kind of music that has a knack of making you feel like ‘Fuck it, I’m okay’. Like you can give the finger to your problems and walk away.

Back to the story, I turned on my stereo and I put in my favourite album of my favourite metalcore band and turned the volume up so high, the floors were vibrating (sorry, neighbours), and I sang along. And this is what is so great about metal because you can’t sing along without yelling and, boy, is that cathartic. I sang along to the entire album and by the end, I was calm.

So, to end this post, here are 2 songs from that album which always make me feel better (I couldn’t decide which one I liked more):

But You’ll Never Live…

“If it wasn’t for this music I don’t know how I would have fought this”

So, regretfully, I do not watch Empire. It just never came up on my radar and I don’t understand why because apparently it’s one hell of a damn good show. I came across this article from the Huffington Post because I was curious to see if and how music therapy is depicted on television. Nowadays, the act of watching a series (or twenty) is so inherent in our society, that it’s natural for them to take on and explore issues within our culture, since it’s a major way of reaching a huge audience. So far, Empire is the only show which I could find that incorporated the use of music therapy but here’s hoping that others might catch on. And needless to say, Empire is now on my watchlist.


I try to include a song that is important to me with each post. There are so many – I literally just have an entire playlist devoted to songs that resonate with my feelings of anxiety – but I try to pick the ones that really help, like, even by just going over the lyrics in my head. This is one of those special songs:





“Erasing horror and disgust
Rewinding the sorrow and the rust
Before our suffering’s suffering
Hadn’t we suffered enough?”

Today I read an article about this incredible indie rock band called The Antlers… well, it was more of an interview. It’s not anything recent but it’s about their latest album, Familiars (which was released on my birthday 2 years ago. It was basically meant to be). Ever since I discovered their music, they’ve pretty much been on a constant loop on my iPod; the kind of music I can never skip over when it comes up on my shuffle. Just beautiful. The interviewer asked questions about the process of writing lyrics and composing music, and about the emotional aspect of their songs too. Because, trust me, emotional is a very good adjective to describe this music. I’m writing this post because I thought the band’s front-man Peter Silberman had some pretty interesting things to say:

You know, I think a lot of people are afraid of heavy subject matter and they don’t look to music to kind of confront really dark shit. But there are a lot of people who do use music for that. They need music to speak to the things that they are afraid of or are too overwhelmed to know how to process. I enjoy writing that stuff. It has been a good mental exercise for me, helps me figure out a lot of stuff in my life and it’s definitely put me in a vulnerable position but it’s also an exciting one. Especially when you find that people really relate to that sort of stuff, and it ends up having a kind of reciprocal effect: Where we might make some music and someone might feel at ease by the fact that someone else is experiencing something as difficult as they are. And on the flip side I feel comforted by the fact that someone out there that I don’t even know relates to this weird thing that I’m thinking about. So I don’t know, that’s been the most rewarding part of the whole experience.


You come to define yourself by your past, and then you realize that that might actually be responsible for a lot of things that make you unhappy. It’s a way to make yourself unstuck and free yourself from that kind of circular way of thinking. The thing is, I think when you do that, when you stop identifying yourself with your past, it becomes very unclear how to define yourself.

I think that can be a scary place for a lot of people, and at times it’s definitely very scary for me too. But I think it’s also a really good place to start. And part of the takeaway from this record is you can kind of rid yourself of your past and you can actually begin to redefine yourself, or, at least, start form a place where you don’t have this super-established identity or really fixated notion of who you are. Then you can be freer, more liberated, and your expectations of yourself change. You realize that self-imposed limitations, they don’t necessarily have to be there.

If you haven’t heard of these guys before, do yourself a favour and listen to their stuff, especially this album because it’s mesmerising.

P.S: here’s the full interview if any of you guys would like to read it:           http://www.salon.com/2014/06/17/the_antlers_open_up_about_their_new_record_familiars_and_why_making_personal_music_is_so_scary/

Where The Hell Are My Friends

“When I wake up, I’m afraid somebody else might take my place”

I’ve lost some friends. People grow apart naturally and I get that, and it’s nothing you can help, but a lot of the time, I feel like I’m the one who prevented myself from keeping my friends. They’d start talking about where they want to go out that weekend and I’m already trying to come up with excuses.

I’ve changed schools three times throughout the years, and each time I found a new set of friends and lost the ones before. Maybe it’s because I didn’t try hard enough to keep in touch but in the end I’ve just realised that I don’t have a friend who has been there since childhood. I guess that’s not really a big deal but it just scares me that once I graduate, I’m going to lose the friends I have now as well. And the friends I have right now are probably the ones I’ve felt the most comfortable around ever (therapy also helped with that).

It’s a paradoxical situation, I think. I want close friends but I end up pushing them away because the anxiety creeps up on me when I least expect it and when it gets really bad, I can go radio silent on everyone. I’m posting this song today because it makes me think about that. I also really like the music video. He’s completely out of sync with everyone else and that’s often how S.A.D makes me feel.

Headphones On… GO!

“Life from the inside responding to music from the outside”

If you love the decade Michael Jackson was born in and are looking for another reason to add to that love, look no further! Music Therapy became credentialed in 1950, but honestly we’ve been using music as a means of healing for thousands of years. Like, literally. Pythagoras can be considered the founder of Music Therapy since he founded a school that allowed his students to release negative emotions by singing and playing musical instruments. Music is a human need. Every culture has it and it speaks to our fundamental desire to express ourselves and connect with other people.

When you’re listening to music, your brain lights up. Language, motor, behavioural, and social areas are all active when you engage with music. Using that discovery to officially treat physical and mental ailments was a solid move in the right direction. The point at which listening to music, singing, or playing an instrument becomes therapy is when interacting with the individual. Asking the patient what they like about a song shifts the whole process to one of understanding what that music means to them and understanding themselves.

Looking at the aspect of physical healing, and not just emotional, music therapists have helped children with developmental disorders use speech for the first time. They’ve helped people with trauma express through sound what they can’t even begin to express through words. There’s even a branch of Music Therapy specifically involving rhythm that helps people with Parkinson’s Disease improve their motor skills, even being able to cue the movement themselves by singing and creating the rhythm independently.

I found this TED Talk by Dr Deforia Lane which shows some really great examples of how Music Therapy can be used. She mentions how the lyrics of a song can speak to us and allow us to hear the message differently. I, for one, find that to be completely true.

So find the music that tickles your soul and use it. Use it to feel better.

Mood-Altering Non-Substance

“What an eager assembly! what an empire is this!
The weary have life, and the hungry have bliss;
The mourner is cheered, and the anxious have rest;
And the guilt-burthened soul is no longer opprest.”

Here are some little fact sheets I found on Tumblr a few days ago. I think they can fill in some knowledge gaps about Music Therapy, and help increase understanding of how it makes people feel better.

How music affects the brain:


And a little bit about the practice itself: