When Music Stops Working – Even Scares You


A great winter weekend was about to finish. With my family we spent a great time with our kids, celebrated a friend’s birthday party in a fantastic Brazilian dance bar, and went cross-country skiing every day. So on the Sunday evening I was happy and quite eager to prepare my plans for the next week.

And then came the Monday morning and I couldn’t get out of the bed. I felt really bad, had a fever, diarrhea, tiring coughing, strong headache and muscle pain. In one word – flu or influenza.

Not that I would enjoy being sick, but I was trying to find at least something positive in that situation. So I persuaded myself, that at least I could listen to more music and read more too, while working on getting better. At least that what I did a couple times before.

Not this time though!

Aside of the fact, that I had been feeling miserably, my appetite for music appeared to be in the negative numbers. I couldn’t remember if I had experienced something like that before.

I tried to put on my headphones, but that irritated me immediately. So the next was to try large speakers. But there was no music genre or an artist, who would please me in that strange stage of mind.

First I tried soothing baroque and classical music. Then something more contemporary. More danceable and upbeat? More rock, or jazz? Vocal? Meditative? Mozart? Purcell? Einaudi? Enya?

Nothing worked.

Not only that my loved and proven music pieces didn’t work, they started to annoy me after a few seconds. That was when I got scared. I didn’t want to push too much as I was afraid that I might develop some kind of negative feelings against music that I loved. At least up to that point in my life.

I tried some new music, hoping that the newness will get me out of my lethargy. But Spotify didn’t work either.

That was that moment, when I had to acknowledge and accept one common truth:

Silence Heals!

The only thing I could hope for was that the silence will do its wonders and will help me too.

What didn’t help was the news article about a young woman and a mother of two small boys, who fell sick and actually died after only three days. And her symptoms were very similar to mine.

After four days of almost total fasting, which started unexpectedly for me ten days earlier that the official Lent, I started to feel a little bit better.

In the following days, my diet consisted from only a variety of herbal teas. ‘Hectoliters’ of them. And everything was accompanied by the healing silence.

I tried to watch Olympics a few times on the TV, as Canadian athletes delivered fantastic results. But television had a similar impact on me as music. It annoyed me. So the best possibility was just to fall asleep in front of the muted TV set.

This situation and my sickness had lasted for more than two weeks. The moment I realized that I was hungry again for music, I was clear that the worst was over.

The last Friday I was feeling like a small child in a candy store. I couldn’t satiate my appetite for music. First I was jamming on piano with Deep Purple. Then tried to sing with the Czech group Buty, but my coughing had impacted that badly. Afterwards I enjoyed the New Year’s Concert from Vienna conducted this year by Riccardo Muti. And finished with Above & Beyond Live at The Gorge Amphitheater in Washington State.

This musical gluttony proves, that after three sick weeks I am slowly getting back to normal. The only ‘positive’ thing is, that I can fit in some pants I couldn’t wear for years. And also positive is that neither member of my family caught the flu from me.

After this experience I have much more appreciation for the work of music therapists. I understand that my bout of flu is not comparable with much more serious issues they deal with when working with their clients. Music therapy can help only if music finds its way through open ears to an open mind. If the body is tormented by an illness and pain, it requires a lot of mastery and also openness on both sides to let music do its healing and soothing.

But what has worked for me this time was – the silence.


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