Thursday, 16 January 2014

Where words fail, music speaks.

A Hans Christian Andersen quote for you - let it never be said that I settle for predictable post titles!

I've been meaning to write a post about music as a form of relief for quite some time but I could never find a frame in which to discuss it. Music is what it is, after all. It's often a deeply personal experience and so it can be difficult to define to another what a particular piece can make you feel.

I attended a concert I was busy getting excited about in my New Year post last week, and this crystallised exactly what I've been wanting to say.

Music is a relief because it can be a complete emotional catharsis when you find the right pieces and songs.

The concert was Trans-Siberian Orchestra, in only their second ever show on British shores. In 2011 they graced London with their Beethoven's Last Night show, and this time they were returning for two dates with a "never before seen Europe-only show" which promised to reunite elements of the band's past, present and future.

(Granted this is at a much bigger show in the USA, but I'm sure you get the gist...
Image from

For those unfamiliar, TSO's past is most notably the heavy metal band Savatage, who have remained on permanent hiatus since their final summer festival appearances in 2002. The partner in crime and I spent most of our journey over to Manchester trading off which Savatage songs we thought would be played - whilst I love the Savatage I've heard, I'm not so well versed as he is as my first love is given to the TSO project. At heart I'm anyone's for big silly stage musical-esque goings-on. We were also meeting friends there, so it had all the makings of a very enjoyable night.

In describing exactly what TSO is I come up against some difficulty. Put as simply as possible it's a five piece rock band, a lead violin virtuoso, an orchestra and a choir of exceptional singers most of whom also take solo spots during the show and wouldn't be out of place on the West End or Broadway (where some have actually performed). There's also a narrator in the form of the wonderful Bryan Hicks, and it's all performed in the manner of an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. Oh, and there's classical pieces played as a mixture of the band and the orchestra. And pyrotechnics. And lasers.

They provide the perfect example of catharsis for me. It was fortunately or unfortunately dependent on view point a fully seated gig, although not without plenty of attempts by the band to get everybody on their feet. Some of the Savatage lends itself to nothing better than hair-whirling dancing, while plenty more of both theirs and TSO's back catalogue calls for singing along at the top of your lungs. At the other end of the scale was the heart-rending ballad Believe, performed with astonishing emotion by Robin Borneman. That marked the point in the night when both myself and Alex were reduced to tears.

He'll tell you the room was full of sand and someone in the row in front was chopping onions, but you should never believe anything he says!

(Robin "You-don't-need-those-heartstrings-anyway" Borneman, making Believe just that little bit more magical for me at least. Image from

After that potent mixture of emotion throughout the night I felt almost scoured clean and completely drained, but in a rather more wonderful way than I would usually mean with that word. Seeing Bruce Springsteen (a childhood dream) in the summer of 2012 was a similar experience, as was watching Les Miserables in the West End for my eighteenth birthday.

That's the ultimate power of music for me - or a mixture of music and words in the case of songs - in the hands of the skilled it shines and can touch most everyone in some way, be it big or small. What's not to love about that?

On that note, without realising I've been slowly collecting a bunch of songs together over the last few years into a playlist on Youtube. I stick it on in the background when I'm writing for TRB, pulling admin duty for the brilliant Chronic Illness Cat page or just generally mucking about doing anything on the computer or in its near vicinity. I won't list everything in it, as it currently stands at 66 videos, but without consciously deciding to I've essentially put together my own emotional range of songs and I'll give a taster below.

  • Objects in the Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are - Meat Loaf
Score one for the "tears" category. I don't mean it makes me sob every time, but it's just in that area of emotion. More a close-eyes-and-listen song. 

  • Nord Mead - Miracle of Sound
Because everyone wants to be a Companion, "drinking mead in the halls of Whiterun". A silly offering from Miracle of Sound inspired by Skyrim - I actually tend to stop and watch the video for this one, just for the bloke at the beginning dancing about next to the dragon skeleton. If you're a Skyrim fan, I highly recommend this as a bit of fun.

  • Gutter Ballet (live, from Ghost in the Ruins) - Savatage
Because it's wonderful, that's why. Score for the "Oh dear lord this is ridiculous" category.

  •  Carmina Burana - Trans-Siberian Orchestra
You didn't seriously think they wouldn't make the list did you? Carmina Burana, possibly more easily recognised as the O Fortuna chorus, and one of my favourite pieces of music ever written.

  • Icewind Dale Main Theme, Skyrim "Dragonborn" Theme - Jeremy Soule
Both excellent games and both pieces of music I love - what a pleasant combination. 

  • We Take Care of Our Own, Born to Run (Live in Madison Square Gardens) - Bruce Springsteen (and the E Street Band)
If you need me to explain why, you haven't been paying attention to the rest of this blog. Correct this immediately!

  • Into the West (The Return of the King OST) - Annie Lennox
Tears. I don't care a bit.

  • Jerusalem - Bruce Dickinson
A stop, close eyes, and if alone belt out at the top of my lungs sort of a song (so potentially draining in more ways than one!)

  • Nessun Dorma (live) - Russell Watson
I don't like everything Mr Watson sings, and obviously it' not the definitive version, but it's a beautiful song and a rather cracking version in my opinion. 

  • Time to Say Goodbye (live at London's Colosseum) - Il Divo
Because I gave up having any sort of street cred a very long time ago. It's another of those songs that if I'm in the right mood and can make me well up a little.

  • Fighting Trousers - Professor Elemental
I actually don't like your tweed Sir, as it happens. Perfect when I'm in need of a good giggle. 

I recommend this, if music is something you find relief in. Find the songs that make you laugh, the ones that make you cry, pieces of music that make your soul soar even if you don't know why, and the odd thing that just makes you stop and think. Stick them all together, press shuffle and enjoy!

In further music related tomfoolery, I'm slowly teaching myself to sing. Slowly. The ability as it turns out has probably always been there, it's just never had any work put into it as I have spent many years soundly convinced by others that I was hopeless. With some kind reassurance that I am in fact not so, I'm getting there. Let's call it my pet project for this year. 

My main problem at the moment is letting go of my inhibition to sing loudly enough to not fall slightly flat of the notes. It's getting better, and I'm beginning to find where my voice comfortably sits, although I'll be damned if I give up practising to the likes of Kamelot and Serenity just for the sheer fun of it. I'm currently teaching myself Nightwish's Eva, for those who know it. 

The point that I've come to realise is that you don't actually need to be a good singer to enjoy the release of singing along to your favourite pieces, and whoever can hear you can go whistle. I'm finding that singing, rather like dancing, is an incredible release of any pent up emotion and perfect for de-stressing. You don't need to be hugely talented in order to enjoy that release, and you don't owe it to anyone to meet an invisible standard.

And don't let anyone ever tell you otherwise. 

Does anyone else have specific "go to" music, or do you use music as a form of relief in any way?

Wishing you all many spoons xxx


  1. Most power metal generally brightens up my day. From the most cheesy, bordering ridiculous stuff to the more serious melodies - you'll find me beaming :D

  2. I've had to put Bruce Dickinson on now. It's so powerful.

  3. Ooh, a couple of my favourite songs. I love Gutter Ballet and also Time To Say Goodbye (love the Andrea Bocelli/Sarah Brightman version.)

    Off to YT to listen to TSO now.

  4. Music is TOTALLY therapy for me. Release, comfort, identification with a cause or emotion, etc. Actually, I spent a good half hour or more in the tub/shower last night singing along to my "Shower Mix", which is basically my list of "yeah I'm a badass and I can do this whole 'life' thing!". They are mostly songs that also make me want to dance around, which may or may not be possible and/or a bright idea, depending on the day. (Dancing in the shower has led to more than one close call…)

    Some of the favorites on my shower list are:
    -Shadows, Lindsey Stirling
    -Brave and King of Anything, Sara Bareilles
    -Stronger, Kelly Clarkson
    -Not My Time, 3 Doors Down
    I was very disappointed the other day and just had to lie down and listen to Only Time Will Tell by Asia on full blast. I'm not sure why that was the song I needed to hear, but it was. Some basic go-to's for me are Evanescence (the Fallen album in particular), Owl City, The Piano Guys, Yiruma, Godsmack, Def Leppard, Ozzy Osbourne, and Lindsey Stirling. Something for every mood, just about.

    Don't give up on the singing. It took me years, but I taught myself to harmonize by singing along with cd's and recorded choral music, and I'm halfway decent at it now.

  5. I really enjoy this blog! I am 27yo male with fibro and spinal injury and music has been very important in managing chronic pain. I love the list of tracks you discussed. I have been listening to Dead Can Dance: Anabasis and Caribou: Swim alot this week. A benefit of fibro-fog I enjoy is forgetting music and rediscovering it! Best Wishes- Morgan

  6. Music has been a lifesaver for me when I've been in a lot of pain or feeling down about not being able to do everything I want to do. It just lifts me up and gives me hope. I love all classical music, but I especially love watching Andre Rieu DVDs, which just seem to be therapeutic for me.

    I stumbled across your blog today (in a different section to this one) and I enjoyed reading it so much that I just had to start following it! It made me laugh so hard on a day when I've been pretty much in bed all weekend with the pain and fatigue. So thank you, and keep blogging!

    I am a 19-year-old female in Australia. I have had symptoms of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome for 3 years now, I have just been diagnosed with Celiac disease, and I'm about to be tested for Lyme disease and several of its co-infections. It has taken this long to get tested for Lyme's because most Australian doctors don't believe that Lyme is in Australia.

  7. Thank you so much for everyone's comments! I love how much music of all kinds opens up discussion and shared feelings.

    Wishing you all the best of luck with your health - and of course, many spoons :) x