Music: How it heals

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[Written by Ani Williams (she/her)]

[Image Credits: Sofia Lopes (she/her)]

Music is a unique, personal, and deeply individual experience for each of us.

Nostalgia can be healing. When I think of nostalgic music, I think of the tunes that my dad used to play (and still plays) whenever we were going somewhere in the car, be it a long trip or a 10-minute drive. His taste is a mix of the standard “dad’s music” with a bit of eclecticism thrown in. Songs such as Cyber Insekt by The Fall and 28 Butts by Little Jackie immediately take me back to my youth. This heals me as it reminds me that I’ve survived difficult times and will continue to survive, but also as I can recall how fun it was to simply be in the car with my family.

Then there’s the nostalgia I feel when I hear the songs that I listened to independently in my early teens. YouTube and the “free song of the week” feature on iTunes were both instrumental in broadening my music taste in this period, and I listened to the downloaded songs on my second-hand iPod Nano. I read somewhere once that the music you listen to before the age of 14 impacts your music taste for the rest of your life, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was true. Listening to the songs from this period allows me to recall how far I’ve come as a person, and the journey of growth I’ve taken through my teen years. Songs such as Bipolar Sunshine’s Rivers and MARINA’s Numb fit into this category for me.

Then there’s the nostalgia I feel when I’m reminded of certain events with friends. Listening to these songs always brings me to a place where I know I’m not alone in the world, and that I have warm, beautiful, loving people all around me. Sebona Fi by Yws Gwynedd, a Welsh language song, allows me to embrace a myriad of memories of being at the Eisteddfod, participating in musical theatre, and being with my beloved friends from Wales. The Cure’s Lullaby on the other hand, reminds me of new friends and new memories, and the amazing prospect of meeting unknown individuals. This soothes my mind in its loneliest moments.

The more literal and physical side of healing, in my opinion, relates to songs that evoke sadness and tears, thus connecting to a moment of relief. I consider it a real discovery when I come across a song that can arouse equivalent emotions in me. Phoebe Bridgers’ Motion Sickness resonates with me deeply. “I can hardly feel anything, I hardly feel anything at all.” Doing the Right Thing by Daughter is another that allows me to tangibly release my emotions, due to the blue, downbeat mood of the song.

Lastly, the type of songs that allow me the most healing are those which I can dance to and release pent-up energy and emotions. Complexity by Eagles of Death Metal and Minnie Riperton’s Reasons are the two which come to my mind first – when I’m feeling down something that really gets me back into a good mood is having a good boogie in my bedroom on my own, and these songs serve this purpose well.

The playlist that I made to coincide with this article features many more songs that I would love to talk about all day, but unfortunately space doesn’t allow. Each song fits into one or more categories of musical healing that I discussed above, with some being new feel-good songs that I’ve only recently discovered, as the act of discovery and thus musical growth in itself is healing for me. I hope you enjoy listening to them.

You can find the playlist here.


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