Music for the soul

Music has got to be up there in my top three happiness boosts.  I love music: pop, rock, classical, folk, country, blues, gospel, soul, jazz, punk, reggae – heck, I can even handle a little bit of rap.

But best of all I love live music.  There’s something magical about listening to someone sing or play in real time, whether it’s being part of a huge crowd at a festival, or just a gang of friends round the campfire.  Much as I love a polished performance by a famous band, I get just as much pleasure from squeezing in to one of our locals for a sing-song, especially if it’s Kendal’s quirkiest little pub – the only one in England on consecrated ground, so ideal for worshippers of real ale.

It’s home to the most inclusive and eclectic folk club I know – where else could you hear a fabulous take on Pulp’s Common People, a George Formby ukulele classic and a cheeky tale in broad Cumbrian dialect in quick succession?  Young or old, maestro or beginner, all find a welcome here (if not always a seat).

Of course, there’s lots of folk music too, which I’ve had a soft spot for over the years, in spite of its ups and downs of popularity (my kids tell me it’s cool again, so that’s alright) and the misguided attempts to hijack it by the BNP – ridiculous, everyone knows that folk music, being about the poor, the oppressed and dispossessed, is proudly socialist.

Now here’s the paradox when it comes to happiness – I have to confess that folk songs are not exactly uplifting.  It’s the fate of Folk Song Man to march off to war, or down the pit, or into the clutches of the press-gang.  Poor Folk Song Girl comes off even worse, being pretty much guaranteed to get pregnant, be abandoned and die of a broken heart.  Yet I’m seldom happier than when listening to some traditional bloody and brutal ballad where the death-count reaches double figures by the final verse!  I guess it’s the same impulse that drives us to enjoy a good weepie at the cinema – we like to enter a world of characters that we understand and empathise with, and experience a range of emotions – whilst knowing that we can return safely to our own lives afterwards.

So here’s to music in its many wonderful forms.  Unalloyed happiness – or it would be, apart from when I get an earworm.  No, I don’t need to see a doctor – an earworm is when you get a snatch of a song, a musical phrase, or a jingle stuck in your mind and you can’t switch it off – annoyingly, it happens to me especially if I wake up in the middle of the night.  I’m indebted to Dr Oliver Sacks’ book Musicophilia for highlighting this phenomenon – I thought it was just me.  My own fault I guess – when I get a new favourite song I do listen to it rather obsessively on repeat – no wonder they get trapped in my head!

What music encourages you to be happy?  Any tips for putting earworms to bed? Share your ideas below!

Poem of the Week

By war poet Siegfried Sassoon, who knew a thing or two about the healing power of song. It was written on the eve of Armistice Day 1919.

Everyone Sang

Everyone suddenly burst out singing;
And I was filled with such delight
As prisoned birds must find in freedom,
Winging wildly across the white
Orchards and dark-green fields; on–on–and out of sight.

Everyone’s voice was suddenly lifted;
And beauty came like the setting sun:
My heart was shaken with tears; and horror
Drifted away . . . O, but Everyone
Was a bird; and the song was wordless; the singing will never be done.

3 thoughts on “Music for the soul

    • It’s not all misery – my son Jamie says that seeing 11-piece folk group Bellowhead play live was the most fun ever – apparently the audience danced so enthusiastically that the venue’s floor had to be repaired afterwards!

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