Tune therapy

Oct 1st, 2009 | By | Category: Personal Columns

There was no danger of a ticket for speeding, the lines of traffic were solid. Three abreast, we crept from one traffic light to the next.

Where’s the recession when so many cars are townward bound on a Thursday evening?

Clearing the lights, the left-hand lane headed westward. A dark BMW cut out into the bus lane, passing a string of vehicles on the inside before suddenly cutting back into the line.

If Hell is not lakes of fire, it could be Dublin traffic.

Flicking through the radio channels, Lyric was the only one not filled with noise.  Mendelssohn’s ‘Hebrides Overture’ transformed the moment. One of those pieces of music that was heard in childhood days, though goodness knows where.  The BBC Third programme would not have been listened to very often in our house; even when it became Radio 3, the only cause for listening to it would have been the Test Match cricket.  Maybe the music was the theme for a television programme, or was used for some advertisement.

The music created a feeling of complete security, a sense that all was well with the world, a feeling that if the traffic went a little slower there might be more chance to listen to the music.

There are snatches of music that have the power to change moods, to lighten dark moments.

A decade or more ago, BBC Radio 4 used to switch over to the World Service at around 1 am, maybe it still does.  Around about Midnight Forty-Five they would play a piece of music called ‘Sailing By’.  It had the mood of a lullaby.  It would be followed by the Shipping Forecast, the poetry of which created a sense that all was well with the world.  The forecast at that time had an especial place in my heart because it included the inshore weather stations, including Killough in Co Down, which was my parish.

Perhaps it is a matter of associations, maybe so deep in the sub-conscious that they are not even recognized, or perhaps there are qualities intrinsic to some pieces of music that have the potential to evoke particular responses.  “Sailing By” is a gently calming, the “Hebrides Overture” altogether different, but both have the power to create a sense of wellbeing.

Perhaps the answer to the Dublin traffic is to put together a compilation of therapeutic compositions, journey times would lengthen considerably but they would be so much more enjoyable.

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  1. I share your traffic frustration. My 20 minute trip to work extends to over 50 minutes in peak hour. But music definitely makes the time spent in bumper to bumper lines more bearable.

  2. I was later in the traffic this evening – it was songs from the shows. The drama of Mendelssohn was much better at diverting the mind!

  3. Ian, ‘Sailing By’ is still part of my regular night time listening. It is indeed very soothing.

  4. You’re a real night owl!

    I had forgotten that RTE Radio 1 also uses a version of it for their maritime programme ‘Seascapes’

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