Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Practice--Intentional Music to Relieve Stress

peaceful photo by Patricia Herlevi
With the holidays upon us and the year winding down, most people deal with stress overload. Add to that dealing with holiday crowds in shopping malls, traffic on the highways, and calamities that occur around the planet which I think has to do with all this stress rippling out. So unwind and relax to music.

I'm going to get you started with suggestions from diverse music genres:


I suggest staying away from the wild Romantic Era composers with the exception of Tchaikovsky and listen to his ballets and sacred music (Rachmaninoff also has sacred recordings). For the most part, stick with chamber music such as string quartets, slower Mozart, Debussy, Ravel, Satie, Grieg, Sibelius, Aaron Copeland, and solo harp or cello recordings. Classical holiday music will either bring peace or strife depending on the person so use discernment and listen in to your feelings. Also try Renaissance polyphony such as Anonymous 4 or Stile Antico.

New Age

New Age is a catch-all genre that includes sound healing recordings, Native American flute, sacred chants, atmospheric piano, nature recordings, as well as, brainwave recordings. So if listening to whale songs relaxes you, go for it, followed by R. Carlos Nakai or Mary Youngblood flute recordings.

Indigenous Music

Even though I tossed Native American flute into the New Age category, traditional Native American flute, peyote songs, Native American blues guitar & flute, and harmonized vocals fall into this section. Also try traditional Hawaiian music (such as slack-key guitar), Aborigine didgeridoo, and slower African tribal music.

World Music

This category includes West African kora or even slower West African blues, harp songs (from a variety of cultures), Andes flutes, Nuevo Cancion (New Songs) of South America, Celtic songs (slower songs), Spanish guitar, polyphonic vocal music, traditional songs from Eastern Europe,  and lullabies from diverse cultures.


I recommend slow tempo instrumental jazz, but the jazz ballads could work too. I listen to Madeleine Peyroux when I feel stressed, but I also enjoy Trish Hatley's On the Quiet Side. Try Miles Davis' Sketches of Spain or Kind of Blue. I also recommend the atmospheric jazz recordings produced by the ECM label. If you prefer something more exotic, try Brazilian jazz.

I highly recommend following up with recordings of singing bowls or if you have them available, tuning forks. You can also learn how to tone (YouTube videos and books). Listen to music via headphones (low volume) for best results.

Here's to a relaxing holiday.

If you would like any further suggestions, please contact me or browse the reviews on Whole Music Experience. Also if you don't enjoy spending time on YouTube (those dang commercials), or don't have time to sift through recordings at your library, try the Putumayo compilations, but stay away from the dance music titles.

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