THE LISTENER | The Tao of Music


by Skylar

Hello Readers.

Recently, as I mentioned in my last post, I have been reading a book titled “The Tao of Music: Sound Psychology” by John M. Ortiz, Ph. D., and this book has been giving me a lot of ideas for group discussions. Last week was the first discussion that utilized the material in the book.

The first section of the book describes how music helps solve clinical issues, and the first chapter outlined how music can help alleviate a depressed mood. Much like my senior project that I have briefly mentioned, Dr. Ortiz differentiates clinical depression from a depressed mood for the purpose of his research. Dr. Ortiz outlines a few different exercises for using music to heal a depressed mood, but for last week’s discussion I picked two of them. The first focused on the idea of entrainment, and making what is called an “entrainment tape.” The idea behind this is to listen to music that aligns with your mood. An entrainment tape (or playlist for this discussion) is a collection of music that runs parallel with how you are feeling and serves as a means of improving your mood.

Now, none of the group members were feeling depressed during the meeting. For the purposes of the meeting, they were able to go back to a time where they were depressed, or put themselves in the shoes of someone who may be. Below is a list of the songs that were places in entrainment playlists from last week.

  • “Survival (The Chariot)” – In Hearts Wake
  • “Washington Square Park” – The Wonder Years
  • “Life Lessons Learned the Hard Way” – A Day To Remember
  • “You’re All I See” – The Word Alive
  • “3 AM” – Chiodos
  • “Coma” – Black Tongue
  • “Undesirable #1” – Like Vultures
  • “Jenny” – Nothing More

Each of the songs means something different to the people who shared them, and that’s the general idea behind entrainment.

The second exercise I utilized for the discussion actually has two parts. The main idea behind this exercise is specifically the lifting of a depressed mood, and the two parts I used for the discussion are A) using music that inspires active behavior and B) using music that modifies affect.

The idea behind using music to inspire activity (the section in the book is called “Effecting Behavior”) is to use music that will inspire you to move. Dr. Ortiz outlines that this looks different from person to person. Someone may find that a small activity around the house is sufficient while another person goes running around his or her neighborhood. Whatever the activity, it is important that the music you choose gets you active. There was a lot of good discussion about music that inspires activity among the group members, and a lot of variety of activity. One group member listed a song that they stated fueled them on the way to class in the morning during the most recent school year, while another member disclosed about a song (and entire album actually) that helped them concentrate; it didn’t matter what it was, be it studying or physical activity, the music helped them concentrate. Below is the complete list of “effecting behavior” songs.

  • “Traveler (The Fool)” – In Hearts Wake
  • “This is the Time (Ballast)” – Nothing More
  • “Besitos” – Pierce the Veil
  • “JMR” – A Loss For Words
  • “The Inconvenience” – These Hearts
  • “Savior” – Rise Against
  • “Product of a Murderer” – Of Mice and Men
  • “Limitless” – Volumes

The final piece of the discussion was the “modifying affect” portion of the exercise. The main idea behind this portion of the exercise was to use music to help you express emotion. Music has the uncanny ability to push expression further than our own words can, and this part of the exercise feeds off of this fact. Dr. Ortiz uses the example of deeply rooted anger in his explanation of emotional expression. Sometimes it is anger, frustration, or hatred of this sort that causes, or is a bi-product of, a person’s depression and that expressing it in a healthy way is key. Part of the discussion from this portion did focus on expressing anger or frustration, but the other part grew to emotional expression as a whole. One song from the discussion expressed feelings toward a failed relationship, while another song shared took on a more reminiscent nature from years and emotions passed; to clarify, this song was once used to express difficult thoughts and feelings and, while those thoughts and feelings are no longer relevant, this participant still listens to the song and enjoys the energy and music. Below is the list of songs from this portion of the discussion.

  • “Pharisees” – Memphis May Fire
  • “Troll” – The Plot In You
  • “Manipulate” – Heartist
  • “Cul de Sac” – The Wonder Years
  • “Useless” – Myka, Relocate
  • “Bet It All On Black” – I Killed the Prom Queen
  • “Shapeshifter” – Dead Rabbits
  • “Hurricane You” – We Are Defiance

That sums up last week’s discussion. There is one idea that I had that I may put into effect sometime before this music group comes to a close, and that is to conduct my senior project with any additional willing participants. This would not be for a grade (since I have finished the class and semester) but merely for my own curiosity. The whole reason I started this music group is to observe the effects of music upon listeners, and this was also the idea behind my senior project. If that’s something you would be interested in, feel free to contact me. Same email as always, I’ll leave it at the bottom again.

Also, in light of the recent book, I have a list of topics I will be choosing from for the foreseeable future of the group’s discussions. They are listed below, but not in any specific order.

  • Stress
  • Anger
  • Pain
  • Sleeplessness
  • Relaxation
  • Grief and Loss
  • Growth and Change
  • Companionship
  • Relationship Issues (we all know there are TONS of songs for that)
  • Letting Go
  • Clearing the Mind

Understand that we may not get to all of these in the last month or so of the group, but if there is one in particular you would like to discuss, contact me.

That just about does it for this post.

See you soon.


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