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Songs For Tax Season: Music To Ease The Pain

Recent developments in understanding the interaction between music and the brain might help us avoid the stress inherent in sending one's hard-earned tax dollars to Manhattan and Detroit and Baghdad. With the right music in the background, preparing taxes might feel about the same as drinking cucumber water in a swank spa, or doing tai chi as the sun rises over the seashore.

Modern science may be able to explain in more detail the relationship between music and mood, but folks like Thomas Jefferson knew it instinctively: When he was stuck trying to find the proper language for the Declaration of Independence, he'd pick up his violin and play a bit, loosening the verbal side of the mind by avoiding its constant chatter for a spell. Albert Einstein, another amateur fiddler, claimed his immense brain power came from playing Mozart and Bach, whose solo violin music could even take the sting out of shock therapy.

Music's effects on consciousness are by now beyond dispute, even when it comes to such nontaxpayers as chickens and houseplants. Petunias seem to prefer Ravi Shankar to The Rolling Stones, and hens have been found to lay more eggs listening to Johann Strauss' "Blue Danube Waltz."

Speaking of breakfast fare, there were claims made by a rock-fearing minister in the '70s that raw eggs wound up hard-boiled when placed onstage during a hard-rock concert. Curiously, the hash browns were unaffected.

Back in the psychedelic '60s, I used to allay the effects of drug-induced paranoia by repeatedly spinning Miles Davis' In a Silent Way, a wafting, atmospheric piece of early electronica that drove images of Satan from my cerebellum.

Equally relaxing are pianist Keith Jarrett's solo piano improvisations, which straddle the bucolic and the hypnotic in equal measure.

But it's Samuel Barber's now celebrated "Adagio for Strings" that can both chill you out and express the sadness of sending your beloved greenbacks to build bridges to nowhere and fund pig-flatulence research in Iowa. My prescription: Treat your ears well and forget about earmarks, at least until after April 15 passes.

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David Was