Music To Help You Glide Over Financial Troubles

Some experts say that given the huge drops in the stock market you shouldn't even look at your finances. Should you decide to ignore their advice, our resident musician suggests some tunes you may want to cue up while looking at just how badly your investments are doing.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ALEX COHEN, host:

If you're like most of us, hardly a day goes by without some bad news showing up in the mail, so we turn to our musician contributor, David Was. He has some music for 401Ks, tunes you might want to consider queuing up before opening that statement from your stockbroker or retirement plan or worse.

DAVID WAS: Is there any melody on earth that could take the sting out of foreclosure proceedings?

(Soundbite of song "Don't Worry, Be Happy")

WAS: Personally, hearing Bobby Mcferrin's treacly refrain makes me want to clamp on the ankle weights, head for a murky swamp. But that's just me.

Mr. BOBBY MCFERRIN: (Singing) Don't worry, be happy.

WAS: Music has charms to soothe the savage breast, William Congreve said famously, to soften rocks or bend a knotted oak. Most people think he said beast instead of breast, like playing Mozart for King Kong would make him roll over, scratch his hairy belly.

Theologian Karl Barth explained that Mozart's music sounds unburdened and thus unburdens us. So maybe it would pay to keep the old CD player spinning in case big foot crashes through the French doors on a stormy winter night. That and a big glass of milk.

Then again, one would have to acknowledge that music can stir as well as soothe, turning well-raised teens into moshpit maniacs at the drop of a distorted guitar.

(Soundbite of a guitar music)

WAS: Or think back on all those Hollywood movies where savage primitives dip their arrows in bubbling Sterno while some leopard-skin Buddy Rich banged out a war beat on a hollowed out tree stump. Googam googam boys. Let's do us some maiming and killing.

(Soundbite of gong)

WAS: Let's confuse the issue a little further by dropping a little neurochemistry into the equation. According to Daniel Leviton's book, "This is Your Brain on Music," a cascade of neural regions becomes activated while listening to either Mozart or the Sex Pistols, eventually resulting in increased dopamine levels and thus, an improvement in mood. So next time you're reading your monthly mutual fund statement and are considering popping a Paxil, try the second movement of "Mahler's 4th Symphony" instead.

(Soundbite of "Mahler's 4th Symphony")

WAS: But it couldn't be that easy, could it? Replacing hard reality and shrunken equity with mellifluous melodies? I'm reminded of fellow madman Friedrich Nietzsche's "Birth of Tragedy and The Genealogy of Morals" wherein he argues that the Greeks of the golden age enjoyed dark tragedies in the midst of their flourishing civilization. It was out of their strengthened optimism that they could chew on the tough grizzle of human hardship.

Conversely, the age of reason and philosophy ensued when the great Greek experiment in Democracy was on its last legs. Does that mean that Socrates was the Dr. Phil of the Acropolis, a kind of epistemological muzak?

(Soundbite of Kenny G's "What A Wonderful World")

WAS: Following Nietzsche's prescription, maybe it is what's hardest to bear that emboldens us to decisive action and right living. If that's the case, fix yourself and stiff gin and windex and crank up some modern classical music, something like Christoph Anderetsky's(ph) "Brutal Life," a sonic landscape so harrowing and bleak, you'll be happy to just have a head of hair and a heartbeat once its over. Like Freddie said, whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

COHEN: David Was, half of the musical duo Was (Not Was).

(Soundbite of song "Don't Worry, Be Happy")

Mr. MCFERRIN: (Singing) In every life we have some trouble, but when you worry you make it double. Don't worry, be happy. Don't worry, be happy now. Don't worry, be happy.

COHEN: Day to Day is a production of NPR News with contributions from slate.com. I'm Alex Cohen.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

And I'm Madeleine Brand.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.