It's Mental Health Week

Kathryn O'Brien

Kathryn O'Brien, 9 October 2019

Now is a great time to take a few minutes out of our busy lives and ask yourself not only about your own mental health, but the impact your organisation’s activities have the mental health of its audience/participants. In this blog article, Culture Counts' Kathryn O'Brien reflects on the significance of Mental Health Week, and how our relationship with art - namely music - can impact our wellbeing.

As a society we are learning and acknowledging the importance of mental health within our overall quality of life. When the Economist Intelligence Unit does its annual Global Liveability Ranking, mental health is one of the factors that contributes to a city’s ranking. Just quietly, Australia has consistently held 3 of the top 10 positions in the last 5 years. We have a lot of Liveable Cities!

In previous blogs we have discussed the importance of mental health. Revisit our blog, Self-Care in the Arts, discussing the mental health of professionals in the arts industry and asks why we have trouble prioritising self-care.

We have also discussed the Relationship Between Music and Wellbeing. This is an area of growing academic research. Many of us working in the industry feel the impact that the arts in all its forms (music, dance, sculpture, photography, etc.) has on our mood and emotions, and in turn our mental health. Academic research projects are showing us the details of what many already saw and felt. Here at Culture Counts we collect data and evaluate the intrinsic value of projects and activities, including the impact on mental health. By gathering and evaluating data we can measure the true value and impact of activities and places.

The link between music and emotions is not new. In early music there was a strong link between the key a work was written in and the emotion or affection that it depicted. 500 years ago, in 1618, Rene Descartes wrote in his work Compendium musicae that “the object of music is sound. The end of music is to delight and stir various feelings within us”. In 1722, when Jean-Philippe Rameau wrote his Treaty on Harmony (Traité de l'harmonie réduite à ses principes naturels), still a key resource used today by music students when studying music theory and harmony, Rameau noted the different affects that keys have. For example, a song written in the key of C major will have a completely different emotion or affect when it is transposed to the key of E major, or even more dramatically into C minor. Below is an excerpt from Rameau’s Treaty:

The key of either C, D, or A in the major mode is suitable for songs of mirth and joy.

Either F or B-flat is appropriate for tempests, furies, and such subjects.

Either G or E is right for both tender and happy songs.

Grandeur and magnificence can be expressed by the key of either D, A, or E.

The minor mode in the key of either d, g, b, or e is apt for sweetness and gentleness.

The key of either c or f minor is suitable for gentleness or laments;

f or b-flat minor is appropriate for melancholy songs.

 

It is therefore not a surprise that today we still connect emotions and feelings with music. We may not always think about it as formulaically as they did 500 years ago, but most of us can relate to having those songs that we listen to when we’re sad (Joni Mitchell anyone?), or need a pick me up (maybe groove along to some Motown?), or just to know a friend is there (nothing like Ben E King’s Stand By Me).

So, as Corinne Bailey Rae sings, Girl put your records on, tell me your favourite song, and spend some time on yourself. Don’t hesitate to seek professional help and advice on mental health issues and take a moment to ask your friends and colleagues how they really are.

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