Music and Grief: Music for Grief

by Brian

There is no doubt that a great deal of music has been written about
tragedy and grief. Also, a great deal of music, rather like poetry, has
been written out of tragedy and grief.

For instance, Flamenco is all about anguish and grief. I am perhaps
over-generalizing here but, Opera probably wouldn't exist if it wasn't
largely based on tragedy and grief. Ballet music, possibly. Folk music
certainly encompasses those emotions. Much Jazz arose out of grief.
Country and Western, Rock and Pop, I just don't know, but I should be very surprised if they failed to be involved, in some way, in the expression of grief.

Music may play a significant part in the life of the readers of this
website and, for those who have formed an especially important
relationship with music, it is likely, almost certain, that their emotions will be powerfully effected by the music they listen to, from time to time. During those times of prolonged, intense, grief following the loss of a loved one the intensity of this effect is likely to be greatly heightened. Music certainly played a very significant part in my wife's life and also in mine. We shared common tastes in music, mostly classical and jazz, we also strayed into 'world music' (International) of one form or another. We would introduce new pieces of music to each other; my wife was very adept at this. Synchronicity had a significant part to play.

We each had favourite pieces of music. I don't think this was especially
important until my wife became very ill. I bought her a battery powered
CD player that I would set it up for her in the hospital with her favourite CDs; she was paralysed by then. So that there was a kind of

Anyway, in order to relieve my stress and grief during my wife's long
illness and following her death I would go for occasional shopping trips
to divert my mind. If I was feeling depressed I would try to find particular interest in various shops of one kind or another.

I used to play the guitar, not very well I confess, but I still love the
guitar and guitar music. One particular day, when business was generally
very slack in a local town, I dropped into a guitar shop to admire their
instruments and fell into chatting at some length with the owner of the
shop. I mentioned a long dead guitar artist, Laurindo Almeida - as it
happened, and bemoaned the fact that I couldn't find his recordings
anymore. The shop owner immediately logged on to YouTube on the shop computer. I was already aware of YouTube but had had no particular interest in exploring that world further at that time. However, we spent a very happy hour listening to some really great music. Bless that man, he did me a very great favour in introducing me to the possibilities available in exploring YouTube. Did I mention synchronicity before, I may have done?

Great Music for grief

I have always suffered from insomnia, which is a common experience for
many. The insomnia was worse during the latter stages of my wife's life.
So a routine has developed, get up and make a cup of tea, let the cat in, feed the cat, let the cat out, read a book, and so on. I also try to fill
the small hours of the night by trawling through YouTube for classical and jazz favourites that have in the past meant a great deal to both of us. Later, I would also chat with my bother on the phone, at the other end of the country, and he would say things like 'you've just got to listen to this music that I have just found on YouTube by Morten Lauridsen - O Magnum Mysterium - Westminster Cathedral Choir

and Eric Whitacre - Lux Aurumque - Westminster Cathedral Choir ', some of his suggestions I found to be profoundly moving. I am most grateful to my brother for that.

Sometimes our emotions get well and truly stuck, don't they. I find this
to be entirely true for me in passing through the experience of grief. Our
emotions may be calmed by music or stuck emotions may also be released and healed.

For example, the music for the Cathedral Meditation photography video,
that Janelle has kindly linked to on this site, Giazotto/Albinoni -
Adagio in G min, was carefully chosen at the time because it reflected
my emotions whilst taking the photos of the cathedrals, but also try

after which, you may find inspiration from Pachelbel - Canon in D maj

Equally, I have found other pieces of music that also have a connection
with that mood. For instance, the music played at Princess Diana's
funeral, John Tavener - Song for Athene - Westminster Abbey Choir - is most relevant. Perhaps you may recall the immense national outpouring of grief on that occasion.

Laurindo Almeida and Salli Terri - Heitor Villa-Lobos - Bachianas
Brasileiras No5 - Aria , I find
immensely moving and was one of my wife's favourites, too.

Heaven knows why, but Edward Elgar - Sea Pictures - Where Corals Lie - Dame Janet Baker , just cracks me up every time I listen to it.

Andrew Gold - Thank You for being a Friend , has long had a special meaning for me.

J. S. Bach - Double Violin Concerto BWV 1043 - Largo - David and Igor
Oistrakh . Fantastic music.

Wolf-Ferrari - Jewels of the Madonna - Intermezzo , particularly relates to a period of my own childhood. Your grief may be related to some kind of childhood loss.

For many, hymn tunes may be an especially fruitful source of inspiration
and solace regarding grief. In this year of 2012 with the anniversary of
the sinking of the Titanic fresh in people's minds the hymn 'Nearer my God To Thee' and its association with that terrible tragedy may spring to mind and remind us that courage and hope may be an accompaniment to grief.

These are just a very few suggestions, but I must stop there for I could
go on for ever.

Searching for and Finding Music for Grief

There is every possibility that your choice of music is far removed from
my own choice and that none of the above have any kind of resonance or relevance for you, but there is also every possibility that there are one or more pieces of music that have very special meaning for you that might connect with your grief. That single piece of music also might release and heal those stuck emotions. Do a search on YouTube!

Fortunately, the YouTube search engine is quite intuitive to use and will allow you to look for pieces of music within a fairly eclectic spectrum of genres. The Music tab has a sub-menu for 'All Genres', such as 'Jazz', 'Classical', 'Blues', 'Religious' and etc, and allows access to those genres with relative ease.

The search engine seems have much in common with Google so that one can search for a music title, composer or arranger, lyricist, singer or instrumentalist, music group or orchestra. Or, simply search for one or
more key words that come to mind. The search engine is tolerant of
misspelling. It will also often provide alternative suggestions and additions to the search words used.

Quite apart from the vast amount of music available on YouTube there are often many different versions or arrangements of each piece of music so that if only one version of a special piece of music has particular appeal then it may well be found there, somewhere. Just experiment.

Don't forget, synchronicity. I think that I may have mentioned it before; I can't remember!

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