Calm the house down with these sound for self-isolating
At times like these, we can turn to music to soothe our souls and restore equilibrium
You want music that winds you down, but also engages your ears and your musical sensibilities, and is written by real, talented artists and not some mindless mindfulness algorithm. Photograph: Getty Images
It seems a long time since we had time on our hands – but time is pretty much all we have now as we wait for this crisis to run its course and – hopefully – pass forever.
But the constant undercurrent of uncertainty, not to mention the stress of being stuck at home, can leave us in a state of high anxiety. At times like these, we can turn to music to soothe our souls and restore equilibrium. We’ve often complained that our busy lives leave us with little time to just kick back and listen to our favourite records – perhaps now is a good time to dig out your old vinyl, brush the dust off your turntable stylus, and get back into the groove. Who knows, your children may even enjoy your old prog-rock triple albums, or your obscure ’80s indie collection. Probably best to leave the old Joy Division albums and all the other angsty doom merchants in the attic for now, though.
Artists have had to cancel gigs because of the coronavirus, but many of them are setting up stage at home and posting music online. Lizzo created a live stream for her fans on Instagram - a 30-minute mix of music and guided meditation. “There’s the disease, and then there’s the fear of the disease,” she said. “I wanted to empower everyone and let you know you have power.”
John Legend live streamed an hour-long performance at his piano for his Instagram followers, and was joined by his wife, Chrissy Teigen, and their three-year-old daughter, Luna. Coldplay’s Chris Martin also sat by the piano and entertained his fans – look out for a lot more pop stars to follow suit over the next few weeks.
So what can you listen to at home to wind down and let go of all that worry and fear? You can find all sorts of “relaxation” and “meditation” music on Spotify and YouTube, anodyne soundscapes awash with sound effects such as waves on the shore, babbling brooks and birdsong. Personally, all that’s guaranteed to set my teeth on edge and have me reaching for the thrash metal and industrial electro punk.
You want music that winds you down, but also engages your ears and your musical sensibilities, and is written by real, talented artists and not some mindless mindfulness algorithm.
Reduce blood pressure
Last summer – perhaps unconsciously anticipating the world’s need – scientists from the British Academy of Sound Therapy got together with Manchester band Marconi Union to try to create the world’s most relaxing tune. The resulting song, Weightless, was found by the Mindlab Institution to reduce blood pressure, decrease the stress hormone cortisol and reduce anxiety by an overall 65 per cent. Aaah.
What other music can help soothe your (hopefully not fevered) brow? In times of stress, I reach for tried and trusted favourites to chill down with. I’ll often dive into a Cafe del Mar compilation to wash away the stress. Sure, it’s just a couple of degrees away from the dreaded meditation music, but there are some excellent remixes of top artists in there, along with some cool tracks that make you feel like you’re on a beach at sunset without actually bombarding you with ocean wave sounds.
Of course, some people’s chill-out tunes are another person’s grating noise
I’ll also pull out my copy of Air’s Premieres Symptomes, featuring some of their early, very chilled out instrumentals, and Kid Loco’s Jesus Life for Children Under 12 Inches, a selection of the French DJ’s finest remixes (cover is a bit unwoke, though). I’ll also go back to some of the Late Night Tales collections – the ones by Jon Hopkins, Nils Frahm, Bonobo and Agnes Obel are particularly worth a gentle spin. I’ll also dig out High Llamas’ Hawaii, a wonderfully restrained collection featuring ambient sounds and Beach Boys harmonies. And in the classical music realm, Chopin’s Nocturnes is truly a balm for the soul - and bears repeated listening.
This could also be a good time to revisit Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks and Moondance, or to rediscover the pastoral vibes of Nick Drake. And if you want to be really transported to a chilled-out world, then head for the so-called Laurel Canyon scene of the late 1960s and early 1970s, which encompasses the sounds of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Carole King, James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell, Laura Nyro and a host of other acoustic guitar-plucking legends. Guaranteed to put flowers in your hair and seeds of joy in your heart.
Of course, some people’s chill-out tunes are another person’s grating noise, and everyone has their own favourite sounds to help them wind down. If you’re not sure where to start, US radio station NPR has created a Spotify playlist, Isle of Calm, “to help settle your jangled nerves, slow your heart rate and string up a little hammock for your soul” in these heightened times. The playlist encompasses folk, pop, soul, hip-hop, blues, classical, jazz ambient and even indie rock, so somewhere in there you’re bound to find your own peace of mind.