Five Homeopathic Songs To Fight Depression
Sometimes one feels down and really does not want to listen to anything upbeat. One wants, in short, to be alone with one's depression. This is not a bad thing, if one is simply allowing oneself to feel depressed until that melancholia dissipates; indeed this is the main function of depressing music, clearing away the sadness and despair until hope revives itself. These five pieces of music are melancholy by nature, but being serious music, they are often sprinkled with beams of hope or introducing better times in a larger work. Thus they are effective ways to alleviate depression quickly, albeit temporarily. As with any mental habit, it takes repeated effort to cure depression.
1. "Patria oppressa" From Verdi's Macbeth
When I used to drive a thirty-mile commute every morning, this chorus, sung by the Scottish refugees hiding out in Birnam Wood from Macbeth's tyranny always sounded just before daybreak, the darkest point in the night. It is also the darkest point in terms of the opera's plot, where the Scottish people mourn for their country, and when they conclude, Malcolm, the rightful King of Scotland arrives, promising that Macbeth's tyranny soon would end. The song expresses the very darkest of moments, and hopefully it would take one with it into a promise of light.
2. Somewhere Far Away
This Russian popular song, admirably performed by Dmitri Hvorostovsky, was originally the theme of a Soviet television programme about a Russian spy in a high position in Nazi Germany. The song expresses the spy's longing for his own country, "somewhere far away." Such is how most people see their past or their dreams of the future, and as the song builds to an ecstatic climax and drops back to its beginning point, the listener falls with it and maybe feels less alone.
3. The Hills of Manchuria
Written in 1905, "The Hills of Manchuria" waltz mulls over the tragedy of the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05, which spelled the beginning of the End of Imperial Russia. It has remained a popular war song among the Russian people since. One poignant anecdote comes from a Russian woman recalling a performance of the waltz in the 1980's, when the Soviet Union was beginning to crumble in earnest, and it was no longer a question of if but of when. But as the song mourns the casualties of war and the world's disintegration, it in the end affirms that life shall go on, somehow. Mitya Hvorostovsky's baritone voice and slow tempo add to the melancholia of changing times.
The Isle of the Dead
For those with acute depression, or with just a little more time to kill, "The Isle of the Dead," a symphonic poem by Russian emigré Sergei Rakhmaninov about the last fleeting memories of earthly joy, based on the painting by Swiss artist Arnold Böcklin of a dead soul being ferried to an islet. The piece is altogether dark with most of its cheerful tones being about memories of dead times. Therapeutically speaking, it should bring one to one's emotional bottom quickly so recovery can begin. I recommend listening to this piece at least once, but not regularly, preferably a performance under the baton of Evgeny Svetlanov.
The End of Time
Another long, but effective, work, The End of Time by odd-duck Danish composer Rued Langgaard is a portrayal of the Apocalypse. It was composed during the 1920's, a time of giddy prosperity in America and of difficulty in war-torn Europe, where some considered the time ripe for Armageddon. The fact that The End did not occur then is the affirmation that prevents one from falling into despondency while listening to this work. One just listens, concentrates, feels, and it is over. One can appreciate life again. Unlike Rakhmaninov's The Isle of the Dead, repeated hearings of The End of Time are not unadvised.