Hello there, and happy spring! Have you ever experienced the way music can tell a story and evoke emotions, even without any lyrics guiding you? It's truly a beautiful thing. Music has a unique ability to communicate powerful narratives through simple yet expressive notes, connecting with us on a deep emotional level. In this newsletter, I'd like to share with you something that I recently realized about the storytelling power of music. We'll explore how music can speak more than words, and how it can truly connect with you on an emotional level. I hope you enjoy reading this and perhaps learn something new!
Platform Magazine "The Role of Music in Mental Health Matters" <www.platformmagazine.co.uk/music/the-role-of-music-in-mental-health-matters/>
When my band teacher passed around "Fragile," composed by Randall D. Strandridge, I was curious to see how the pieces of music blended together, and how the notes, rhythm, and dynamics combined to tell an unusual story. While I was trying to better comprehend the music, my band teacher started to explain the sheet music and how it's a composition that includes pieces that describes one of the most common mental health challenge, that many around the world daily struggle with, depression. It creates a mood where you feel calm, and then all of a sudden, the challenge hits, and it gets louder and more uncontrollable until you finally get to the point where you feel not only vulnerable but also isolated in a world of billions of people, you feel…alone. That moment, which may last hours for some and decades for others, is the feeling of loneliness and unsupportedness.
I connected with this music on an emotional level, rather than playing it like a piece. I played it the first time and all the times following, like my own mental health journey, and I feel like this piece not only connected to me but also to the many people in my band and in the world playing or listening to this song.
When I was practicing this song one day, I started to realize that even trying to explain the emotions and challenges I felt during my mental health journey, there just weren’t enough words to describe it. This got me thinking about how the song connected with me and how words sometimes can't describe how you feel, but music can. Music can connect to anyone on various levels when words are hard, and you feel connected to music and supported.
After playing through the music more times, I became curious about why the composer wrote this piece and if he had written any similar pieces. That's when I came across Strandridge's composed notes. After reading through them, I felt even more connected to the music and understood the hardships that life can bring and how difficult it is to overcome them, and for some even to attempt. The way he wrote about some people's mental health journeys may have "happy endings," but he also acknowledged that many people don't, and I found this to be a perspective that's commonly missed. We tend to overlook the people who mental health still affects. I appreciated his comment to be inclusive and to see everyone and their unique mental health journey, rather than judge. He's just trying to share it so people feel heard and connected. This is definitely something that would have helped me in the past with my emotions, and it helps me now.
Sound Cloud "Fragile (Grade 1.5-2, Concert Band, Standridge)s" <https://soundcloud.com/randall-standridge/fragile>
When delving deeper into the UnBroken Project - an initiative by Strandridge aimed at promoting awareness and support for mental health challenges through music - I discovered how notes can sometimes better convey our emotions than words. A single piece of sheet music can express the roller coaster of events we experience in our own mental health journeys.
Curious to learn more about Strandridge's projects, I dived deeper and discovered that the UnBroken Project is a collection of musical works inspired by stories of individuals who have overcome adversity, including mental health challenges. The project promotes resilience and hope in the face of difficult situations that we all face at times. The pieces included are unBroken, Choose Joy, (not) Alone, Blue Sky Horizon, and Fragile (the one my band and I performed). The project aims to raise awareness about mental health issues and use music as a medium to create support for those who may be struggling.
This sheet music not only gave me a deeper understanding of the ways we can express and advocate for mental health and break the stigma, but also gave me insight into how music can express our heart and mind when we struggle to find the words that fit. Music has a unique ability to connect with people on an emotional level that conversations can't.
I am simply amazed by the amount of music created for mental health advocacy and was curious to see if any other composers had done the same. I came across multiple different music projects connected to mental health, including:
"The Quiet Room" by Eliot Sumner: This album is a personal exploration of Sumner's struggles with depression and anxiety.
"This Is My Brave" by Jennifer Marshall and Anne Marie Ames: This project features live performances of original works by individuals who have been affected by mental illness, including depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.
"Lost in Translation" by Jonny Benjamin and The Tides: This album explores the emotional journey of Benjamin, who was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, as he travels to different cities in search of hope and inspiration.
"Loud Krazy Love" by Brian "Head" Welch: This documentary film and accompanying album chronicles the journey of Welch, a former member of the band Korn, as he copes with the mental health challenges of addiction and depression.
"Asylum" by Francisca Valenzuela: This album explores themes of mental health and social justice, with a focus on issues such as anxiety, depression, and trauma.
The New York Times "When Music Is the Best Medicine" <https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/26/well/live/music-therapy-cancer.html>
Overall, the power of music in promoting mental health awareness and advocacy cannot be overstated. The various projects and compositions mentioned above demonstrate that music can be a powerful tool for self-expression, healing, and creating a sense of community for those who are struggling with mental health challenges.
It is essential to acknowledge that mental health issues affect many people worldwide, and often, individuals may feel isolated and stigmatized. However, music provides a medium for individuals to express their emotions and connect with others who may be going through similar experiences. It is important to continue promoting mental health awareness and advocating for better support for those who are struggling with mental health challenges.
In summary, it is important to recognize music’s potential in raising awareness and advocacy. Whether it involves composing, performing, or simply listening, music can serve as a therapeutic outlet and a source of community for individuals in need. The power of music lies in its ability to tell a story and connect people in a meaningful way. If you ever find yourself feeling stuck or alone, remember that music can offer comfort and understanding.
As I conclude, I would like to leave you with a poignant quote from composer Randall Standridge: "I live with depression. I am not afraid to say this. However, too many suffer in silence, shame, and fear. We must tear down these walls and normalize discussions about mental health issues. We owe it to each other." May we all strive towards a society that prioritizes mental health awareness and encourages open and honest conversations about these important issues.
Thank you so much for reading, and I hope you learned something, and enjoy listening to these mental health music projects :)
If you are interested in learning more about Standridge's unBroken project, click on the button below!