Dear Friends of HME,
Last week I was in Florida taking a small vacation and doing a book-signing in Sarasota. While there, we decided to take a couple of days and venture over to Disney World and visit Epcot because my friend had never been there. Now despite my classical music training and preferences, I must admit that I've always had a soft spot for Disney music and Disney tunes from the 50's and 60's especially. I grew up in the Mickey Mouse Club era and dreamed of being a Mouseketeer. I never missed "The Wonderful World of Disney" on Sunday Nights and saw each Disney film as it came out. The tunes to "When you Wish upon a Star" and "Some Day my Prince will Come" filled many hours of my childhood. My parents bought us the soundtracks to all the movies as they came out and I learned to play them on the piano as well. After my daughters were born, I made sure they learned them and we all learned thewonderful new tunes of "Bedknobs and Broomsticks," "Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast" and "Lion King."
But I was unprepared for the glory of the music I was to experience at Epcot that day. Wow! As soon as we set foot through the gates, the speakers had the most beautiful, stirring music playing and all I wanted to do was just sit down somewhere and bask in those glorious sounds. The entire day was filled with music (all on sale in the gift shops!) that was specially created for Epcot. Much of the music was march tempo, very upbeat and celebratory in nature. My most favorite music was that played toward the end of the day during the parade entitled "Tapestry of Nations." It is divided into five sections:
1) Sage of Time Prologue 2) Millenium Heartbeat 3) The Great Millenium Walk
4) Reach for the Stars 5) The Human Spirit .
The over-riding characteristics of celebratory music are: 1) a steady, pulsating rhythm 2) lots of percussion 3) simple but heart-felt melodies. In the case of this piece, much of the rhythm, percussion instruments and melodies were Carribbean and calypso in origin and on a warm, humid Florida afternoon it was just the ticket. In addition, it had lots of modulations moving upwards chromatically and that is always powerful.
Organizations that know how to use music for motivation have a powerful tool at their disposal. Music is powerful. The military has used marches and marching songs to motivate and energize soldiers for thousands of years. Bagpipes and bugles have signaled the beginnings of many wars. Hollywood composers have written some of the most effective music for motivating people in movies: think of the famous whistled tune in Bridge on the River Kwai" or "Star Wars." In these scary and uncertain times you might want to listen to more than your usual amount of celebratory music. It certainly helps my mood change to a more hopeful and optimistic one.
Alice H. Cash, Ph.D., LCSW
IN THIS EDITION
I. Editorial: Getting Motivated with Music
II. Can a Tune get Stuck in Your Brain?
III. On the road with Chantdoc: more book-signing, lectures, and workshops
IV. Ask the Chantdoc: FAQ's
DISNEY MUSIC ONLINE
Love is a Song" (clip) (a .MP3 file)
BEDKNOBS & BROOMSTICKS (1971)
Portabello Road" (clip) sung by David Tomlinson and chorus (.MP3 file).
BEAUTY & THE BEAST (1992)
Beauty and the Beast" (clip) sung by Angela Lansbury ( .WAV file).
THE LITTLE MERMAID (1989)
Part of Your World" (clip) sung by Jodi Benson (a .MP3 file)
Healing Music Articles
Read more informative articles written by Dr. Cash.
Topics such as "Music and Your Mental Health: How Does it Work?";
"Music has many Benefits for Mother & Newborn";
"Music as Medicine: Music Therapy Strikes Key Note" are online for your learning and enjoyment.
Where did the month of October go?? I know that I was in Florida for 10 wonderful days, but prior to that I was busily preparing for other workshops and presentations and having more copies of my book, CD, and tapes printed to take on the road with me. The book-signing in Sarasota at Circle Books was lots of fun and we were actually outside under the beautiful palm trees of St. Armand's Circle on the John Ringling Blvd. Thanks to all the friendly folks who stopped by and said hello! Next month I'll be in Spartanburg, S.C. at the Spartanburg Regional Hospital doing two day-long presentations on Music in a Health-Care Setting so if you live in that area, please try to attend one or both days. CEU's will be offered and I'll be talking about everything from babies to surgery to Alzheimer's patients.
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Dr. Cash offers her newest book and ebook "Notes for Tuning Your Life with Music" and accompanying CD and MP3s plus audiotapes - chock full
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Can a Tune Get Stuck in Your Brain?
On the morning I was leaving for Florida I happened to pick up a newspaper on the plane that had an article from the L.A. Times called "Stuck!" The entire article was a report on the research of a professor at the University of Cincinnati about a problem he calls "Stuck Tune Syndrome." You've probably experienced this. I know I certainly have! I get a tune stuck in my mine and it goes round and round for days before it finally vanishes. Sometimes it comes back weeks, months, or even years later to plague me again for awhile. I've heard many people talk about the phenomenon, but when I saw this article, I thought to myself "What perfect timing!" This is a problem I have suffered from my entire life and I was searching for an interesting topic for the October e-zine that day anyway. Plus, I wanted to see what the professor had discovered; especially if a cure was part of it!
Without giving you more information than you want, I will say that on my honeymoon long ago in 1971, we were in this gorgeous resort in the British Virgin Islands and all I could think about was the McDonalds jingle "You deserve a break today, so get out and get away to McDonalds!" No matter how hard I tried to substitute another tune, think about how much fun I was having, etc. I found myself plagued with that tune and that idiotic phrase going through my mind at least 500 times each day. It made me feel terribly guilty because I was otherwise having a great time.
According to Professor James Kellaris, certain types of music operate like mental mosquito bites. They create a cognitive "itch" that can only be scratched by replaying the tune in the mind. But unfortunately, the more the mind scratches, the worse the itch gets.
Kellaris surveyed 1000 college students to see which tunes seemed to be the "stickiest" and also asked them how long the tunes had stuck. He was trying to identify characteristics in the tunes that might cause them to have the "sticking" effect. One of the things that he thought probably had an effect, not surprisingly, was lots of repetition.
For instance, the song "Follow the Yellow Brick Road" or Queen's "We Will Rock You." Another factor is musical simplicity; children's songs are usually quite simple and for that reason are easy to remember and are usually remembered through life. Another, very different component of sticky songs, Kellaris found, is incongruity. Songs that have irregular rhythms and meters such as Leonard Bernstein's "America" from West Side Story" with it's syncopated 12/8 rhythm is very "sticky." Some of today's Hip-Hop music with it's driving and repetitive riffs throughout are pretty sticky. Missy Elliot's "Get Your Freak On," comes to mind, although I certainly couldn't recommend it as a piece of healing music. As a clinical musicologist I try to listen to all kinds of music so that I can relate to clients of all ages and musical tastes.
Diana Deutsch, psychology professor at the University of California, San Diego, and editor of the journal Music Perception, believes that when a tune gets "stuck" it might have to do with the deeper meaning of the words involved. "Even songs without words can have a larger meaning." Therefore when a song is going round and round in your head, you might ask yourself if the words have a deeper meaning for yourself. Of course if the tune is "I'm a Little Teacup" the meaning is all too obvious!
Here is the list of the top 10 most-often "stuck" tunes:
- "The Macarena"
- "I'm a Little Teacup"
- "Gilligan's Island
- The Chili's "Baby-back-rib" jingle
- Tschaikovsky's 1812 overture
- Kenny Roger's "The Gambler"
- Two "Dr. Pepper" jingles
- Mozart's "Eine Kleine Nachtsmusik"
- Theme from "The Andy Griffith Show"
To that I would add the theme from "The Beverly Hillbillies" and a couple of other classical melodies including some fugue subjects.
Music psychologists, neurologists, musicologists, and everyday folks know that music can exert a powerful grip on the mind. At the very least, a stuck tune can be annoying, but when one is really stuck, it can be almost maddening. One of the professor's respondents claimed, perhaps jokingly, that he had the music from an Atari 260 video game playing in his head since 1986! What do you do what you have a stuck tune? Sad to say, there is no cure, but here are some of the things that people have tried with varying degrees of success:
- Substituting another tune by thinking it, humming it or playing it. Unfortunately, it too could become stuck.
- Turning to another distracting task like reading aloud, balancing your checkbook, or talking on the phone to a friend.
- Trying a folk remedy like chewing on a cinnamon stick; this is actually said to be effective!
- The old "cootie" method wherein the song is transferred to another by humming a few bars to the person and saying "now you've got it!"
As I said, it's a frustrating situation but not fatal. Right now I would strongly recommend listening to all of your favorite old songs and instrumental favorites. Remember that the music of our "courting" years is said to be the most soothing and comforting and that's what we all need right now.
Question of the Month
Right now I'm finding myself feeling very scared much of the time. I worry constantly about terrorist attacks and anthrax and whether I'll even wake up the next morning. I am going to a wonderful therapist and she's put me on some medication for anxiety, but I'm wondering if there is any particular music that would help.
Dear K. C.
Good question! I'm very glad to hear that you're seeing a therapist that you feel is helping you. That's great! And taking an anti-anxiety medication is probably a good idea too because today these medications are so safe and effective and you truly don't have to worry about getting addicted unless they are from the benzodiazepine family. Music can be an excellent way to calm yourself and use less medication. What you want to look for is music that will slow your breathing and heart-rate down; music that has a very slow, steady tempo. If you like classical music you might look for CD's by composers such as Pachelbel, Handel, or Vivaldi. If you like jazz, then the slower styles of jazz; the mellower types will be more calming. Generally speaking, music that you have found comforting and calming in the past is what you want to look for now. Hope this helps.
Send in a question that you'd like for Chantdoc to answer next month!
Healing Music Services
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in using music for healing and promoting health and wellbeing.