Music for wellbeing

After a season of celebration and possible excess, music can help us regain a sense of equilibrium by evoking memories, celebrations past, future hopes, or just reminding us to be in the moment now.

This month’s music selection explores some of these expressions, past and present and from around the world.

Simon and Garfunkel

All music is of its era, and although the opening song, ‘Feelin’ Groovy’ by Simon and Garfunkel, sits squarely in the ‘Peace and Love’ spirit of the 1960s, it has a timeless quality, always raising a smile and creating an awareness for the small miracles of life – there to be appreciated if you don’t rush by.

Himalayan Healing and A Wonderful World

The music of the soundbath, used in healing rituals, to expand the mind, and in some yoga practice, is represented here by the ‘Shaolin Healing Bowls’ by Himalayan Healing.  Evocations of the natural world are frequently connected with ideas of wellbeing and in this expansive recording of the singing bowls, birdsong filters in. Louis Armstrong’s classic ‘What a Wonderful World’ is almost an anthem for our time, recounting the pleasures of the environment that faces so many threats.

Prokofiev and Handel

Joyful occasions are celebrated or evoked in several of the choices. In Prokofiev’s musical tale of the soldier Lieutenant Kije, his wedding day is represented by a brass fanfare followed by a progressively ‘boozy’ trumpet slurring the ‘Kije’ theme. No such indecorum is detectable in Handel’s overtly joyful ‘Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne’.

Wordless and calm

A sense of wellbeing can be about quiet contemplation without words, making instrumental music its ideal medium. Indeed, the titles of some wordless pieces suggest a soundscape in which the imagination can play, such as in Debussy’s ‘Reflets dans l’eau’ [Reflections in the Water], or in one of Schumann’s Scenes from Childhood, ‘Kuriöse Geschichte’ [Curious Story].

Choral songs

Voices raised in praise, often in a religious context, sweep the listener along inducing emotions of thankfulness and wonder. Choirs hold particular power to move both participants and audiences, as shown in the Swahili rendition of the Lord’s Prayer called ‘Baba Yetu’ and sung by the Angel City Chorale. Spectacular solo voices, such as Emma Kirkby’s pure soprano in Mozart’s ‘Exsultate Jubilate’, can be similarly uplifting.

Bob Marley, Joni Mitchell and Brahams

Secular voices, too, can convey religious fervour, as in Bob Marley and the Wailers’s ‘Jamming’. But wellbeing can also be sensual as in the Beatles’s ‘Penny Lane’ and Taj Mahal’s ‘Cakewalk’.

A 70s classic, sung by Joni Mitchell celebrates awakening to a perfect ‘Chelsea Morning’. Finally, a familiar lullaby with music by Brahams, sung in German by the distinguished counter-tenor Andreas Scholl, puts this playlist to bed!

Hear the playlist below or every Tuesday in January at 3.30pm in the Music Gallery.