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Why Do People with Depression Like Listening to Sad Music? (bps.org.uk)
185 points by charlieirish on Apr 24, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 167 comments



My experience of this was that the sad music could connect to where I was, and once I had connected, I could actually slowly shift my mood by gradually changing the music (had to be gradual though).

I kind of stumbled on that, and it worked for me, though in hindsight I can see how it could be seen as a form of musical therapy.

The really essential point though, is that in order for this to work I had to begin with songs that actually matched my low mood (Radiohead and Portishead seemed to consistently do the trick)... trying to shift out of a low mood by playing a happy song directly did not work - it was just jarring.

I imagine that in doing so I was unconsciously reproducing one of the best impacts of certain kinds of therapy: creating the acknowledgement that yes, I feel the way I feel, that is mirrored by my environment in some way, and it’s not something I need to hide or feel shame about. The music helped me feel that without needing to reveal anything about myself.


I've been doing this for years! I have a dozen or so playlists that start off with very sad music, become melancholy, then bittersweet, then hopeful, and finally happy.

Almost always does the trick! But you have to have time to kill.

The way I see it is like rescuing someone stuck on the ocean floor. You can't just bring them up! Your body has to adjust to the changing pressure. Slowly and slowly you change the mood, allowing time to ease in.


This works in conversation, too. There's something powerful about the experience of diving down to meet someone in the low place they're sitting in, while keeping a bit of yourself apart as a lifeline - you can sync up with them by observing and validating the way the world looks to them from that hurt or scared place, then, step by step, help bring them closer to the surface by suggesting a little bit of a broader view at each turn in the conversation.

But yes: you really do have to have some time to kill, and it can be tricky to set up an environment in which a sustained, unpressured conversation can occur.

(What you are describing with your playlists sounds like the soul of DJing. Perhaps you might try playing with a controller sometime, if you haven't done so already.)


Not only in conversation, it's the way to bring people where you want emotionally, be it music, poetry, cinema or any form of art.


The depressurization metaphor is spot on. Here’s an 80m continuous mix I made a while back based on a similar philosophy, transitioning from sad/bittersweet to hopeful/energetic to peaceful: https://m.soundcloud.com/mindgam3/palosanto-tears-of-the-sha...

There is one mood transition halfway through that I’m not too sure about, but otherwise I’m happy with how the mix came out from a technical perspective.

I have playtested it over the years during dark times and it seems to help. Perhaps others will find it cathartic as well.


Me too. Whenever I'm depressed, my "Sad Songs" Youtube playlist ends up on shuffle.

I think it helps me to feel all of my feelings which eventually gets me out of my rut. I find it comforting to have my mood matched.

Here's my playlist:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SOd-rz8lDXQ&list=PLhMrEC5L8T...

Coincidentally, the first song, "Quiet Times" is about being in a relationship with someone that is depressed.


Whoa. Please consider sharing your playlist via Spotify!


All you people encouraged me to write (my first ever) blog post - with links! Here you go:

https://www.lukeschaefer.dev/2019/04/scuba-rescue-playlists....


I am a little concerned that this website gives all kinds of SSL errors in Firefox and openDNS straight up categorizes this as malware.

Could you please check into that?


Oh my. I don't get that on my machines. I'll look into it though.


Like this perhaps? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ziw4yd5R0QI

(Explosions in the Sky - The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place)


Yes, that’s nice! I’ve never done this, and maybe i don’t know enough songs to do it right..

It would be great if you shared your playlists in any way!


Yes, please do share the playlist.


I'm the third person in favor for sharing the playlist! :D



I would love a copy of these playlists



Must try that ASAP !


I use music for fine grained mood modulation since at least 10 years now. Some progressions consistently work. I will typically start with Joy Division, Radiohead or equivalent post-punk classic albums, which tend to be really far out on the depressive/sadness spectrum.

I will generally follow up with things like Swans, Godspeed! You Black Emperor (I also listen to a fair amount of noise). By this time, I'm usually getting focused in to something - either reading or coding. Before the ramp up, it would be virtually impossible for me to even start thinking of something. Post-rock type long noisy things work amazingly well for me to get into a certain flow state. At the end, after an hour or two, when I take a break from whatever I'm doing, I'm almost manic and hyper-restless (far away from the sad state I started from earlier), but in a good way. I really like my manic states.


Small addendum - the Greek idea of Catharsis is one of the most eloquent articulations of this process. It is well discussed in art and literature.


Upvoted for good music taste!


Upvoted for even more social effect!


Sad music is a type of immersion therapy. Confronting your fears is always the best way to overcome them.

I think sadness and depression also require validation. Stewing on it is good if it is therapeutic, bad if it encourages helplessness.


> Sad music is a type of immersion therapy. Confronting your fears is always the best way to overcome them.

I couldn't stress this enough.

Also there is a danger when in a depressive(depressed?) state to stay in it by feeding back the beast.

I got stuck for two days once listening non-stop to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAcALH67-2A (Hans Zimmer - Time (OST "Inception") │ Fingerstyle guitar) and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IuEEEwgdAZs (Hans Zimmer - INTERSTELLAR⎪12 STRING FINGERSTYLE GUITAR). I suspect the sadness I experience when listening to it comes from the threads I weaved between elements of my own life and those movies. Now I can't listen to those tracks anymore.

I mentionned that because the sad track (adagio for strings) used in the experiment is a happy one for me since it reminds me of the Homeworld opening sequence (which bring elements of "let's move forward" and "let's fight for our lives").


Same experience as a DJ. You don't open a night with bangers - that's a great way to alienate everybody. Pick the light tone, don't go for anything further than nodding along to music in the beginning, and then gradually, track by track, pick up the pace, keeping an eye on the dancefloor.

Same principle also works wonders in sex, btw.


I've always pictured listening to "sad music" as a sort of equivalent to double-clutching a truck or stepping onto a moving walkway. The music has to be well-synced emotionally or it'll just clash instead of applying useful pressure.

There's also an aspect of externalizing the negative feelings to deal with them better. When it's deep, well-founded sadness that probably looks like catharsis, but it even works for 'pointless' sadness over sleep deprivation or an already-resolved problem. Anchoring those feelings to music essentially helps me play a trick on my monkey brain. "Sad for no reason" is hard to shake directly, so it can be easier to transition through "I'm sad and there's sad music, that must be the cause, clearly happy music will make me un-sad!"


>> I imagine that in doing so I was unconsciously reproducing one of the best impacts of certain kinds of therapy: creating the acknowledgement that yes, I feel the way I feel, that is mirrored by my environment in some way, and it’s not something I need to hide or feel shame about. The music helped me feel that without needing to reveal anything about myself.

This was/is the purpose of the blues, an acknowledgement and release from adversity.


I was thinking about placing a screen on the wall that displays pleasant face.

The system would observe you so the face can follow you with eyes and head turn.

It would also read your mood from your face and behaviour and match it, but not exactly. Face on the wall would be slightly happier and calmer than you are.

I think this could improve your mood through multiple mechanisms. It also might be very creepy which might be another reason to hack together something like this. Mood appropriate music might be nice touch as well.


I encourage you to test this idea out ( or if you don’t have the time, situation, etc. encourage others). Even if it has a low chance of working, it would be really positive if it did work. Some antidepressants are approved on slim margins over placebo effects, so the bar isn’t super high.


I’ve been using similar tricks of the mind upon myself as well as others, works for many, many things and scenarios. I like to think about it as a reverse normalisation of deviance maneuver.


If you have any playlists that move nicely away from sad music to uplifting ones I'd love to know about them :)


I don't have a playlist, but I do have a suggestion: if one doesn't work for you, play around with the choice of "intermediate" music. For me, the choice of music depends on what specific emotion I'm starting from and what I'm trying to do at the same time. (I wonder if Pandora could build these - take a starting and ending song and fill in a progression between the two?)

"Sad to melancholy to emotional to happy" might be good for sitting around at home thinking about losing someone (family, romance, etc), perhaps with a bunch of folk music and slower songs. Townes Van Zandt can connect to just about any amount of sadness, the middle could be anywhere from Dire Straits to The Dubliners depending on taste, and the endpoint might be Led Zeppelin. (Actually, you could probably do an entire playlist of this with Zeppelin alone.)

Whereas if I know I'm just tired and frustrated over minor stuff and I want to get work done, I might end up going "bleak to angry to driven to enthusiastic". Maybe... Filter to Black Flag to grandson to Glitch Mob?



This. People seek things that "understand" them. Misery loves company.


Everyone loves /like/ company, to a point.


I came here to say exactly this. Once I got tired of sad music, my brain was tired of being sad. I could gradually improve my mood by shifting the music I was listening to.

Fascinating that I'm not the only one who does this. This must be a thing.

Thankfully I only deal with depression occasionally now, but this trick worked great for me.


My first thought seeing the headline was of this quote:

"What came first – the music or the misery? Did I listen to the music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to the music? Do all those records turn you into a melancholy person?"

- Nick Hornby, High Fidelity

Also relevant from the book:

"People worry about kids playing with guns, and teenagers watching violent videos; we are scared that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands - literally thousands - of songs about broken hearts and rejection and pain and misery and loss."


This is a tangent, but if you haven't listened to Lonely Avenue, the album that Ben Folds and Nick Hornby did together ... Do that.

Ever since I heard it, I can't see his name without the lyrics popping into my head: "Some guy on the net thinks I suck, and he should know: he's got his own blog"


Maybe I’m wrong but broken heart sad seems a lot more transient than older generations of sad music like, say, Pink Floyd’s The Wall and The Final Cut. I would wager it’s really not a problem.


Yeah, there's definitely a difference between "I'm sad because my baby ran around town" (say, Runaround Sue [1]) and "I'm sad because my romantic relationship broke down and that's just an example of the fundamental existential horror of being a living human that none can ever escape from and nothing will ever improve because we're fundamentally and irrevocably trapped" (The Wall).

[1]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4NQLmUOgT5M


Floyd have their own broken heart sad songs (Wish you where here, nobody home, and lotsa others). Though the Final Cut was a flop, and barely listened to/mentioned today, so kind of transient itself.

But of course tons of 70s and 60s era music are "broken heart sad" as well -- it's not like some unique today phenomenon. Broken heart sad takes a good 50% of all songs since time immemorial...

If anything, today it's not "broken heart sad" anymore, but some hip-hop/pop version of "how cool/rich I am" or "how badass I am", looking at the charts.


On the other hand, I'd be tempted to say The Final Cut was a flop precisely because it was so relentlessly bleak. It's not even sad so much as hopeless, like The Wall with all the angry and optimistic parts distilled away. Two Suns in the Sunset is so desolate that it's tough to follow with any other music at all. The mood where that's relatable is way out past sad, which does it no favors selling copies or landing on playlists

I agree that it's not really a generational thing, though. Timbuk3 landed one big hit (The Future's So Bright), and it was a sarcastic song about nuclear war that landed unironic play on graduation playlists. Their other, overtly depressing stuff got no traction at all. Rap, punk, and most any other genre has similarly hopeless, unromantic sad songs - they're just not approachable enough to top charts or endure in people's memories.


Wish you were here is not a broken heart sad song. It's about disillusionment.


Not broken heart from a lover, but broken heart about a friend. Still a broken heart.


Syd Barrett supposedly


I think that sort of sad is still around, although I agree that Floyd was a rather special case of a popular chart-topping band putting it out. There's definitely a difference between broken heart sad and what I'd maybe call depression sad or ennui sad.


Lyrics tend to not be understood by the DJs and publishers. Can you imagine Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds being broadcast while the DJ and publishers understood the lyrics?

For a more ontopic subject, think of heroin usage (Red Hot Chili Peppers) or songs describing automutilation (quite common in goth music). Examples like these make the term depression less abstract.


Lucy in the Sky isn't about drug use.


If you consider the era, type of music, and the title (Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds is the correct title) I'd say the evidence points in that direction.

Although Lennon denied this, he admitted he was inspired by LSD. However he has a good reason to deny this: to avoid the radio ban.

Perhaps we will never know for sure. We do know for sure it was perceived as such.

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucy_in_the_Sky_with_Diamond...


Lennon denied it on the Dick Cavett show in '71, years after it was released and would have been near radio. Maybe there was another reason to deny but I don't think radio is it.


Exactly what I thought when I saw the title as well.


Worrying about kids listening to sad music is equally as absurd as worrying about kids watching violent movies/tv or playing violent video games and thinking that "some sort of culture of violence will take them over"

edit: here's evidence

>Journalists and policy makers do their constituencies a disservice in cases where they link acts of real-world violence with the perpetrators’ exposure to violent video games or other violent media. There’s little scientific evidence to support the connection, and it may distract us from addressing those issues that we know contribute to real-world violence.

https://div46amplifier.com/2017/06/12/news-media-public-educ...

>Unexpectedly, many of the results were suggestive of a decrease in violent crime in response to violent video games. Possible explanations for these unforeseen findings are discussed and researchers are cautioned about generalizing the results from laboratory and correlational studies to severe forms of violent behavior.

https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Fppm0000030

>Results indicated that studies of VVGs and aggression appear to be particularly prone to false positive results. Studies of VVGs and prosocial behavior, by contrast are heterogeneous and did not demonstrate any indication of false positive results.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S01602...

>Researchers in Germany used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) on long-term players of violent video games and found that they had the same neural response to emotionally provocative images as non-gamers. This finding suggests that empathy is not blunted by playing such games long-term.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170308081057.h...

>Results indicated that publication bias does exist for experimental studies of aggressive behavior, as well as for non-experimental studies of aggressive behavior and aggressive thoughts. Research in other areas, including prosocial behavior and experimental studies of aggressive thoughts were less susceptible to publication bias.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S135917890...

>During the video game epoch, youth violence in the United States and elsewhere has plummeted to 40-year lows, not risen as would have been expected if the 2005 APA resolution were accurate. Although we do not assert video games are responsible for this decline (such would be an ecological fallacy), this decline in societal violence is in conflict with claims that violent video games and interactive media are important public health concerns. The statistical data are simply not bearing out this concern and should not be ignored.

https://www.scribd.com/doc/223284732/Scholar-s-Open-Letter-t...


I started out in the "it's just a bunch of prudes!" group and have, years later, come around to "maybe the old fogies had a point about trash entertainment and being careful about what you expose yourself to".

Aside from the usual shock-memes that used to be common on even the less-seedy parts of the Internet, I'd un-watch certain mainstream media if I could. Number one, with a bullet, would be all of South Park. That show has a way of putting really stupid stuff in my head such that it intrudes on my consciousness daily, even though I haven't watched it in years. The laughs it delivered in return weren't even close to worth it.


>I'd un-watch certain mainstream media if I could. Number one, with a bullet, would be all of South Park. That show has a way of putting really stupid stuff in my head such that it intrudes on my consciousness daily, even though I haven't watched it in years. The laughs it delivered in return weren't even close to worth it.

That's interesting, although certainly not anything I've experienced or heard anyone else express. That almost sounds like you may be experiencing some kind of other underlying problem or disorder (I don't mean any offense by this, I was recently diagnosed with a personality disorder), because I don't think constant daily intrusions on your consciousness from a cartoon you haven't watched in years is normal or healthy. However, I also don't believe that is evidence against my statement


Eh, it's just like having a song from an old NES game start playing in my head while I'm cleaning the dishes. Except dumber and more annoying. It's not like it's constant or anything. Usually it's one of their songs ("Blame Canada", that Game of Thrones intro song where all the notes are the word "weiner") or some line or gag that was repeated a whole bunch of times in an episode. Like the worst and most persistent friggin' ear-worms imaginable. But not a day goes by when I don't have one or two things from South Park pass through my head at some point. Just a small annoyance that was made worse by my recognizing it. It's probably true, or nearly so, of many other things too (see: NES music) but those don't bother me.


I think media does shape your view of the world, especially seminal shows whose lines stay with you for decades. I can watch episodes of MASH or Star Trek and recite entire exchanges of dialogue. That shows how immersed I was and how much I've integrated those high points (or low points) into my perspectives on life, even 30-50 years later.

In the 1950s, literate people used to quote literature. Today we quote television. Does that make us illiterate?


Or equally valid. People learn about life and norms from what they watch and what they play and so on.

This doesn't mean all or most kids playing violent games and watch violent tv will be killers.

But it could very well mean that kids playing violent games and watch violent tv will have more propensity to be less sensitive to violence (and even produce more killers, even if still a small percentage) than kids that don't.

The naive way people formulate the problem ("if violent movies caused violence, then all/most kids watching them would be murderers or violent persons beating other people") is indeed absurd (and trivially empirically false).

But if one formulates it as "Does an increase in exposure to violence and violent norms in movies/tv causes an increase in tolerance for violence and normalized violent behavior more than if people didn't watch violent movies/tv?" seems very likely.

In fact, this not only is not "absurd", but is part of active studies. E.g.:

“Fifty years of research on the effect of TV violence on children leads to the inescapable conclusion that viewing media violence is related to increases in aggressive attitudes, values, and behaviors” (Murray, 2008, p. 1212).

Despite the fact that controversy still exists about the impact of media violence, the research results reveal a dominant and consistent pattern in favor of the notion that exposure to violent media images does increase the risk of aggressive behavior. (Sparks & Sparks, 2002, p. 273)

And the counter-argument that "kinds in 1914s didn't have violent movies/tv, but they had a whole World War and tons of murders anyway" -- forgets that wars start by other causes than social violence (e.g. territorial disputes, profit, etc), and that part of the problem those days was that the population did have quite a big exposure to violent/nationalistic/etc narratives (even if it wasn't in the form of movies -- Hitler was very popular in getting people pumped up over radio with images of national glory and beating the scum and so on).


I disagree, as does the majority of the modern evidence and professional opinions that I have found. It's funny how just like with reddit, people downvote what they disagree with regardless of evidence to the contrary

>Journalists and policy makers do their constituencies a disservice in cases where they link acts of real-world violence with the perpetrators’ exposure to violent video games or other violent media. There’s little scientific evidence to support the connection, and it may distract us from addressing those issues that we know contribute to real-world violence.

https://div46amplifier.com/2017/06/12/news-media-public-educ...

>Unexpectedly, many of the results were suggestive of a decrease in violent crime in response to violent video games. Possible explanations for these unforeseen findings are discussed and researchers are cautioned about generalizing the results from laboratory and correlational studies to severe forms of violent behavior.

https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Fppm0000030

>Results indicated that studies of VVGs and aggression appear to be particularly prone to false positive results. Studies of VVGs and prosocial behavior, by contrast are heterogeneous and did not demonstrate any indication of false positive results.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S01602...

>Researchers in Germany used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) on long-term players of violent video games and found that they had the same neural response to emotionally provocative images as non-gamers. This finding suggests that empathy is not blunted by playing such games long-term.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170308081057.h...

>Results indicated that publication bias does exist for experimental studies of aggressive behavior, as well as for non-experimental studies of aggressive behavior and aggressive thoughts. Research in other areas, including prosocial behavior and experimental studies of aggressive thoughts were less susceptible to publication bias.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S135917890...

>During the video game epoch, youth violence in the United States and elsewhere has plummeted to 40-year lows, not risen as would have been expected if the 2005 APA resolution were accurate. Although we do not assert video games are responsible for this decline (such would be an ecological fallacy), this decline in societal violence is in conflict with claims that violent video games and interactive media are important public health concerns. The statistical data are simply not bearing out this concern and should not be ignored.

https://www.scribd.com/doc/223284732/Scholar-s-Open-Letter-t...


The very first link you've posted says

"The views here are those of Division 46 (Society for Media Psychology and Technology) of the American Psychological Association and do not represent an official position of APA".

It also links to the official position of APA, which is:

  Scientists have investigated the effects of violent video   
  game use for more than two decades. Multiple meta-analyses 
  of the research have been conducted. Quantitative reviews 
  since APA's 2005 Resolution that have focused on the 
  effects of violent video game use have found a direct 
  association between violent video game use and aggressive 
  outcomes (Anderson et al. 2010, Ferguson 2007a, Ferguson 
  2007b, Ferguson & Kilburn 2009). Although the effect sizes 
  reported are all similar (0.19, 0.15, 0.08, and 0.16, 
  respectively), the interpretations of these effects have 
  varied dramatically, contributing to the public debate 
  about the effects of violent video games.

  The link between violent video game exposure and 
  aggressive behavior is one of the most studied and best 
  established.

  Similarly, the research conducted since the 2005 APA 
  Resolution using aggressive cognitions and aggressive 
  affect as outcomes also shows a direct effect of violent 
  video game use (e. g., Hasan, Begue, Scharkow & Bushman, 
  2013; Shafer, 2012). Researchers have also continued to 
  find that violent video game use is associated with 
  decreases in socially desirable behavior such as prosocial 
  behavior, empathy, and moral engagement (e.g., Arriaga, M 
  onteiro & Esteves, 2011; Happ, Melzer & Steffgen, 2013).
So, the established position agrees with the point I was making.

How much weight should be placed on the individual papers you've linked compared to the official position?

I don't know. But my larger point wasn't even that the causation is true: it was that it's not "absurd" to consider it, as the parent claimed. Which I why a posted a few studies that do consider it (to show it's not just "worried parents" and the like).

And not only is not absurd to consider that it might be true, but that it is true (and "well established") also happens to be the official position of the APA.


Yes, and if you read all the links you would see

https://www.scribd.com/doc/223284732/Scholar-s-Open-Letter-t...

>a large group of researchers including academics from Harvard, Yale and Columbia universities—took issue with the APA, the task force and its research methodology. In an open letter, the group called the APA's policy statements on violent video games "misleading and alarmist" and said they "delineated several strong conclusions on the basis of inconsistent or weak evidence."

as well as other studies demonstrating that "Results indicated that studies of VVGs and aggression appear to be particularly prone to false positive results" and "Results indicated that publication bias does exist for experimental studies of aggressive behavior, as well as for non-experimental studies of aggressive behavior and aggressive thoughts. Research in other areas, including prosocial behavior and experimental studies of aggressive thoughts were less susceptible to publication bias."


Still, official position is what it is -- and there is counter arguments by a large group, but not the larger body (APA) or the group dedicated to it.

In any case, nothing that shows that considering the case being "absurd" -- which is what I answered too. At worse, an open question.


If you have evidence debunking the number of studies and expert opinions I've posted I'd love to see it. The evidence supporting your opinion has been debunked and called out in other studies and by experts in the field as I've demonstrated. Feel free to stick by what you believe, but you know what they say about opinions... Interestingly the studies that support your opinion came to false and misleading conclusions due to bias as well as weak and inconsistent data, much like the comments supporting your opinion


>If you have evidence debunking the number of studies and expert opinions I've posted I'd love to see it.

First of all, how is the burden on proof on me? The causal link is the official APA position, the "number of studies and expert opinions" you've posted is not it.

>The evidence supporting your opinion has been debunked and called out in other studies and by experts in the field as I've demonstrated.

Oh the irony. Do you just pick the experts you agree with over the official body's position? A number of experts also objects for climate change being man-made -- in fact you can find a number of experts objecting to almost everything established.

Second of all, my point was not that the causal link is true (which would made the argumentation relevant) but that considering it is not at all "absurd" -- as the parent commenter (you?) insisted, and in fact it's seriously studied.


It's not entirely absurd though to worry a little bit about your kid watching raw violence or porn or something. I'm not like that. I'm the kind of parent who never says no. But most parents aren't at all like me.


In my experience, music that matches my mood makes me fee less alone.

I had some tough times when I was a teenager, and didn't seriously get into music until I discovered Rammstein(my favorite band to this day). To most people, it's very brutal sounding, often angry, sometimes depressing. My parents had no idea why I listened to some German guy growling in front of "rock music".

My whole world was changed because, finally, someone else expressed how I feel. Now, the lyrics themselves are often grotesque or even silly, but I didn't understand most of it and what they were saying didn't matter to me anyway. I was comforted by the fact that these guys could put into music what I could fail to put into words or deal with in my own life.

Simply speaking, I find such music to be cathartic. Actually, lots of different moods of music can be cathartic, but negative music sticks out in that category because we're expected to listen to music that "lifts us up". I think that's why I actually become more depressed by listening to happy music when I'm sad; it's as if the world is telling me that I shouldn't feel the way that I do. Having my feelings recognized by music is about as good as having someone tell me that it's okay to feel bad about my situation.


I think it goes further than just music.

There is something that I have noticed in my life, when it comes to the people I'm drawn to and the people that are drawn to me. We all tend to share a particular similarity, in that we end up being 'darker' people in one way or another. When I say 'dark' I dont really mean like 'emo' or 'goth', but in the way that our humors are usually darker, and we all have either dealt with or are dealing with some kind of despair. I think it's a feeling of 'not being alone' when you are with someone who 'gets it', and it's a sort of warmth that you dont come across much in the day to day. I dont think dark people just like dark music, I think dark people like other dark people.


That's generally been my experience, too. I have had depressive stretches and pulled out of them, but have always been consistently a "dark" person. Dark doesn't mean unhappy.

It isn't that I "only see negatives", as I've been told endlessly, or just have a dark sense of humor. It is also related being relatively good at security analysis, architecture and troubleshooting - I tend to naturally focus on faults and limits, and reach for a systemic view first. And any time you look at human systems, that's depressing. (That was a joke, there.)

Musically, I used to be more exclusively "dark". That's changed as I've gotten older, but I still find most pop grating. The last few months I've been more on an active listening jag, after thinking I noticed Erik Satie-ish influences on Brian Eno, and then Laurie Anderson and Robert Fripp. (Eno acknowledged this in something I read, I'm less sure about Anderson. Fripp may have just been responding to Eno.)


I think the emphasis on faults and limits rather than on the peak of the bell curve (where 'normal' people reside) is the hallmark of critical thinking in general.

Circumspection isn't a 'dark' perspective per se, but one that deliberately resists 'going with the flow', which is assumed by all promotional efforts like PR and advertising. The conventional 'embracing of the light' is inseparable from groupthink, IMHO.

Any excess of optimism or advocacy raises my inner defenses and sets off alarm bells. In this, The Age Of The Internet, that thinking isn't 'dark'; it should be common sense. But it's all too uncommon, I fear.


I think seeing negatives vs. positives might make sense from an evolutionary psych perspective. Pessimistic and cynical people can be good at pointing out flaws in ideas/plans/practices while optimistic people can be good at rationalizing beneficial practices and plans. This applies in both prehistoric tribal society and now in the corporate sphere.

Not sure if there is a genetic basis to pessimism vs. optimism but I don't think any is more or less valid than the other


I can relate to this but I would never call myself "dark" even though I've been depressed more often than my peers. Instead I think I have experienced first hand more of the emotional spectrum than others might have and I consider this one of my strengths, that I have felt many things close to or within the realms of despair, without dying. I believe in and adhere to "what doesn't kill you will make you stronger".


Agreed, I quickly found I didn't fit into the FAANG or California startup culture as it seemed to attract lots of, what I would consider, very preppy, overly positive, outgoing people. Definitely nothing wrong with that, but those aren't the kind of people I generally form strong bonds with. I've found Seattle to be a much better fit


I think most people are dark people in a way. There are people like you and I who recognize ourselves as such, others who try to hide it, and others who are still oblivious until they experience it first-hand. Each group prefers their own type, but I do think everyone trends towards darkness eventually. It's just a truth of the reality we inhabit - some of us experiece the harshness early on, others later on through pain or death of a loved one. But it does bring us all weirdly closer when we do.


Misery loves company.


In my experience, misery prefers solitude.


Responding to the headline: Because depression isn't sadness, it's a mental illness that causes a numbing, hollowing feeling that robs you of joy. In my experience, it's more akin to despair than sorrow.

Feeling anything (even sadness) can help make it easier to cope with it if you're unable to seek effective treatment.

Which is most people, probably. Most people I know who have depression can't (or won't) seek effective treatment, usually because of cost prohibition.


Purely anecdotal but when I'm feeling down / sad I find that happy music annoys me where as sad music soothes me. Music too far out of my current mindset clashes with it and causes negative feelings in me.


As a songwriter, I wonder why I write so many sad songs. Like, a lot of them. Really, really sad songs.

I just wrote one last week, inspired by a scene from a science fiction novel. It tells the story of a small fleet of spaceships fleeing a doomed Earth for the stars, and one ship attacking the rest and killing their crews in order to steal their fuel and spare parts. It's not just that what they did is a crime... they knew it was wrong, did it anyway, and feel terrible about it, but they also knew that if they didn't do it, another ship would have done it to them. So it's all guilt and shame from making a totally selfish decision.

Why would I write that way? And it's not like this is an unusual subject for me.

Part of it, I think, is that I do a very good job of covering up some deep depression in my day-to-day life. I'm a much sadder person than I appear to be.


> they knew it was wrong

I know which book series this was part of, and this action was the correct one to take. I feel as if the entire point of the book is that at some point, we need to make collective decisions, and when we do so, we all need to share in the responsibility of those decisions.

The decision not to protect each human life as some kind of infinite well of value is an unusually narcissistic form of collectivism, I think, and only possible in highly developed nations. I believe that at some point, the reality of resource depletion or pollution, possibly war, will come to a head, and we will have to abandon this view.


I've heard some criticism of that series of "Can't relate to the characters". I suspect that it's because the perspective is so strongly Chinese, rather than American. The situation of the scene isn't something an American would even think of, y'know?

A big part of the beauty and thrill of that scene, for me, was all of these people recognizing the problem, and the solution, and the horror of the solution, at the same time.


Do you have any recommendations for other books, movies, or shows that "sparked horror" as well as that event did?

The closest I think I've come since was Blindsight's revelation on how the aliens functioned, but it wasn't nearly as cinematic.


Blindsight was great.

The Martian Chronicles and The City and the Stars both reliably produce a kind of satisfying melancholy, if that makes sense, at least for me. Not unlike To the Lighthouse, actually. Might not quite be what you're looking for, but... similar-ish?

There's a short story collection called Beyond Flesh that has some solid horror moments of the sort you're looking for, I think.


Satisfying melancholy is the “cellar door” of vibes in my opinion, these recommendations could have been airport romance titles and I’d probably still have checked them out!

Had no idea Bradbury fit “There Will Come Soft Rains” into a novel of sorts, that was probably one of the very first SF stories I ever read and loved.

All have been added to my reading list (To the Lighthouse included) thank you!


The Martian Chronicles is more like a concept album, but with short stories instead of songs, than a novel. There are some connections here and there but the vibe is always more important than the details or any broader narrative, as far as linking the stories together.

Fair warning: To the Lighthouse is a (gently!) stream-of-consciousness work of Modernist fiction, and the entire middle act is mostly a description of a vacation home aging for a time, largely absent any people. It's also one of my favorite books, but it's, ah, subtle, I guess. Think a series of impressionist paintings of everyday life, nature, and empty rooms, but in book form.

I hadn't thought about it a lot but on reflection that "satisfying melancholy" effect is one of my most treasured feelings I can get from fiction. There's something childlike about it that really appeals to me—and now that I think about it, a lot of the big children's classic films, especially of 80s, went for this in a big way. Almost everything by Don Bluth. The Neverending Story. That kind of thing. Might be why I make that association.

Just scanned my shelves looking for more. The short stories of Dinesen, a bit? The Call of the Wild, but I think that might just be a "me" thing. It's a lot more common in poetry, where you can read through an anthology for any famous poet and probably encounter it many times, than in fiction. Possibly it's more common in bodies of literature outside of English—I'm thinking especially of Russian and French—where I'm even less well-read than I am in English. I just don't know.


As someone who grew up on their mid-late 80’s siblings’ leftover films alongside my own late 90s/early aughts movies, I can see that association looking back now! Might even feel it thinking solely about the VHS cases, either the cardboard slip ons or the hard, flexible sharp edged ones that were the bane of my little hands.

The call of the wild & white fang were early favorites of mine that I haven’t revisited yet, but will now. Definitely also be taking a look at Seven Gothic/Last tales!

Honestly though, I think I might be most excited about To the Lighthouse out of all the recommendations, it sounds like it’s right up my alley, at just the right time.

I have very little experience with solid literature outside what was assigned, and absolutely none with poetry despite a (somewhat shortish) lifetime of constant reading, but over the past year or so I’ve really taken to some more serious movies that paint these absurdly captivating, familiar and utterly foreign perspectives/experiences/vibes over stripped down, or nonexistent plots without much in the way of dialogue either.

Think a series of impressionist paintings of everyday life, nature, and empty rooms, but in book form. is absolute catnip, and even if don’t take to this work in particular, is a thread to pull at now.

Serious, serious thanks to you for all of this.

Made my first account here since 2015 to upvote a book about databases, and left with a completely new, cross pollinated perspective on modernist fiction (and poetry!). Very good day.


I would have recommended Blindsight!

Along the same lines, I really loved A Fire Upon the Deep, by Vernor Vinge, and its "sequel" A Deepness in the Sky has aliens that remind me in many ways of the Trisolarans. But A Fire Upon the Deep gets some of that horror.


Vernor Vinge (or his publishers at least) have just made another $20. Thank you so much!


Outside of the recommendations that I see, all of which I agree are excellent, I would say "The Broken Earth Trilogy" by N.K. Jemesin.


I’ve heard really good things about those over the past few years but never took a serious look for some reason, reading the synopsis now... I can definitely see the “horror” I’m looking for happening, thanks for putting them over the top!


I thought you might enjoy this last verse, too...

Sixty thousand years to get there

Five ships waste fuel you need to stay alive

Eden's just another word for graveyard

So kill and steal, leave Eden and survive

Light a candle in the darkness

Drift forever in the gloom

Four thousand comrades sacrificed to save you

Their ships you gutted serving as their tomb.


What book series is this from? Or even better, what specific book? I'd be keen to read it.


The Three Body Problem, by Cixin Liu. The scene is actually from the second book in the trilogy, The Dark Forest, but they are really meant to be read in order, and I don't think The Dark Forest would make much sense without reading The Three Body Problem first.

Outstanding books, highly recommended if you like old-school hard science fiction. I'm currently reading the third book in the trilogy. But when I read this one scene... I had a song a day later. It really knocked me out.


The book was probably Liu Cixin's _The Dark Forest_.

If you want to read it, start with _The Three-Body Problem_, the first in the series.


Because "sad songs say so much" as Elton put it. It's probably considered a bit corny now, but it's dead-on.

"From the lips of some old singer

We can share the troubles we already know

...

If someone else is suffering enough oh to write it down

When every single word makes sense

Then it's easier to have those songs around

The kick inside is in the line that finally gets to you

And it feels so good to hurt so bad

And suffer just enough to sing the blues"


When I write lyrics, it's only ever because something frustrates me. And I love serious lyrics in general... but I'm also really grateful for people who just see the good in the world and sing about it, like Bob Ross, but for music. That's just not me though.

> If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.

-- C. S. Lewis

> Altogether, I think we ought to read only books that bite and sting us. If the book does not shake us awake like a blow to the skull, why bother reading it in the first place? So that it can make us happy, as you put it? Good God, we'd be just as happy if we had no books at all; books that make us happy we could, in a pinch, also write ourselves. [..] A book must be the ax for the frozen sea within us. That is what I believe.

-- Franz Kafka

> You don't write those books because you hope those things will happen. You write those books because you think they might happen.. but you'd rather they didn't.

-- Margaret Atwood

Such are the thoughts with which I console myself, but still, this is the kind of person I make my stuff, which is solely "against", for:

> To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places — and there are so many — where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.

-- Howard Zinn


If something hurts, we usually stop doing it (feedback loop), unless there is something else at play: some short term positives, like taking drugs. So depression (even without music) persists because it actually feels good in the short term. I remember when I was a child, and was crying, I could cry myself even more, by just thinking negative thoughts, it kinda felt good to 'release'. Music amplifies this, so I would say this is why depressed people 'enjoy' sad music. Then, I was taught not to have self-pity, and didn't really care to be sad any longer. Instead I chose to solve the problems or move on if they're not solvable.

It's helped me. What do you think?


I can relate to pop music just fine but those tunes are shallow compared to the information packed songs from Radiohead. But I've never loved Radiohead for their melancholy. Only for their outstanding musical abilities. They also seem to be bright, clever, intelligent even, judging from their lyrics and interviews. I don't consider them dark. I consider them bright.

I've been depressed tons of times. I'm bipolar, they tell me. But even outside of a depressive state I return to those artists that try a little harder than those who aim for the top lists.

I think most other people who are depressive by nature, when they feel good about themselves they shy away from things that remind them of themselves in a depressive state. But I love being depressed. It's a much better feeling than being manic.


Electric Light Orchestra. Music with a futuristic, but mixed pessimistic and bright outlook. And the orchestral contribution makes the backbone of it.

If you like Science Fiction (especially reading it) you might like this too.


It always seemed self-evident to me that people who are depressed generally dislike being entrenched in "happy" settings (e.g. seeing happier people around them) because it reinforces feelings of isolation. I don't see why music would be any different.

Put another way, misery loves company.


Same with depressing literature. When I am in depressed mood then listening/reading depressing material gives me peace. When you have depression you generally don’t get much acceptance so it’s nice to be allowed to be as you are and not constantly being told “lighten up”.


When I'm fairly depressed, my goal is just to get to neutral. Trying to skip strait to happy is counter-productive. In that state of mind, happiness doesn't seem attainable or even real, it is a lie and a facade. Trying to talk myself into being happy is at best empty hype, as I can't genuinely embrace or believe the words I am saying. Happy music, or happy environments are likewise unembracable. When surrounded by them when depressed, I inevitably just retract into my head. This is a waste of time at best - being around people or participating in an activity but not present or enjoying it. At worst it can lead to spiraling negative thoughts that drag me deeper down.

Listening to "sad" music on the other hand can be very theraputic. Sometimes, it intensifies the feelings, confronting them, pushing through them, burning them inside of me. Othertimes, I melt into the music, letting go of my thoughts and feelings, letting them seep calmly out of me. I think it partly depends on exactly how I'm feeling: self-hatred or hopelessness or numb. Either way I come out the other end with a sense of relief, and evened out.

At this point I can move onto activities that are enjoyable, but not ones that are taxing (eg socializing) or which require lots of decisions to second-guess (eg coding), or can be frustrating (eg video games). For example, reading or whittling are good stepping-stone activities for me. Listening to upbeat music at this point can also help to continue the progression to a happier state, but I have to be careful not to overshoot with music that is too happy or driving.


My impression is that sad music tends to have more substance than happy music. Happy pop music is especially guilty of this where: "it's the summer, everyone is having a good time etc..."

I'm really drawn to metal because it creates something beautiful out of difficult emotions. I actually don't get the association to anger at all, it's like saying people who like watching action movies are psychopaths.

I would argue that more art is rooted in pain than in happiness.


Fundamentally, there's no narrative, in the sense of a story or an emotional journey, without conflict. Luke may blow up the Death Star, but Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru got BBQ'd, Obi Wan died, and a lot of friendly pilots were vaporized along the way. And that's a relatively happy movie.

Moreover, to the extent that art is to help us grapple with difficult things, well... happiness isn't that difficult. Now, good circumstances but unhappy anyway? Then you've got something to build a story on.


My dad often said, "When you are cold, eat ice cream. It lowers your mean temperature."

That said, we always knew he just wanted ice cream.


Personally I find that I can use certain sad music to push through vague mopey depression into a state where I can do something about it.

If I just sit there being sad and useless I’m gonna start feeling sad about how long I’ve been sitting there moping and it’s a horrible downward spiral.

If I lay there on the floor in the dark with headphones on listening to a double album full of exquisitely constructed instrumental crystals of particular flavors of sadness then I am likely to actually start crying and find some release from the endless circles around the mental drain. Or I might also start laughing at what a caricature of an emotion I’m being by doing this - and then the sadness is banished in another way.

Aphex Twin’s “Selected Ambient Works, Volume 2” is my go-to album for this. That or Nine Inch Nails if I want to be more angry. Which probably tells you a lot about my age.


Getting sad enough to cry is a good technique, because tears from strong emotion have been found to carry stress hormones with them out of the body.

Crying also releases endorphins which can help you recover from a feeling of sadness.

So yes, it's pretty reasonable to feel mopey but unable to extricate yourself until and unless you can push yourself far enough to cry, at which your body's own biology lifts you out of feeling mopey.


As usual in reporting and PR around brain/mind science, the "why" question posed in the title is not even remotely addressed or even approached by the study. That would, of course, require a theory about why people feel things at all, and why the feelings feel like they do and not some other way, which we are still woefully ignorant about.

The greater (and more general) question here is: why do humans seek out things that make them feel negative emotions? People watch horror movies wanting to be scared. They watch romantic comedies knowing that they will cry sad tears at some point. They read stories containing evil villains who kill and cause great suffering.


Doesn't this presume that "sad music" is - in fact - sad?

There's plenty of music I will sit and listen to that my daughter asks me to turn off because it makes her sad, but I find very uplifting. Examples:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUpvEgJEn94

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIcR7Xkysds

There are plenty of other examples as well. All the studies reveal to me is that we're all wired a little different. Shocker.


We're culturally conditioned to associate certain patterns to certain emotions.

Personally I find those two examples you posted as melancholic and solemn, which I love.

If you put those same tracks to an African tribe which has never heard (let's call it) European music, I doubt they'd feel sadness or melancholy. Maybe they wouldn't feel anything at all.


Yeah, I've noticed the same thing. "Sad" songs make me feel better. I'm not sure why.


I think music is a mirror that provides contrast.

If the music is more depressing than you are, you feel less depressed. But if the music is happier than you are, you appreciate that you're more unhappy, and that makes you feel worse.


Is this that people with depression crave sad music, or that music meant to elicit pathos has found its target audience?

> The controversial implication is that depressed people deliberately act in ways that are likely to maintain their low mood.

How is this remotely controversial? Finding something you like is not the same as liking your state or disposition for depression.

> “… may reflect a desire for calming emotional experience rather than a desire to augment sad feelings.”

So, we've basically confirmed that people get pleasure out of liking things? This study seems weird.


Kurzgesagt had a really great video[1] on loneliness that described the downward spiral that people find themselves in.

> > The controversial implication is that depressed people deliberately act in ways that are likely to maintain their low mood.

> How is this remotely controversial? Finding something you like is not the same as liking your state or disposition for depression.

i think that is controversial because it assigns agency to the person experiencing the depression, that they are causing their own depression. but the most common complaint from people with depression is that people are always telling them to "just cheer up" etc etc. this is the same sentiment in a specific context. "if you just didn't listen to depressing music all the time, maybe you wouldn't be so depressed."

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n3Xv_g3g-mA


Now I think we're running into the strange alleyways in our concept of depression. Do people with depression have no agency in their depression? I think it depends.

Depression can be a disposition, ie. someone is disposed to being depressed but not always depressed.

Depression can be a mental state, ie. I'm depressed right now.

Depression can also be a clinical diagnosis, ie. you are lacking such and such chemical balance and that is your depression and you require such and such to "fix" it.

Depression can be an emotion or a feeling, ie. I feel depressed, or that poet is describing or manifesting their depression in their words.

Depression can be a cause and a reason, in the sense that one (an agent) gives a reason for their actions.

The concept of depression has different degrees of agency. In some clinical cases, none at all. That seems controversial until you realize depression is a complex and flexible concept.

This study seems to have not clarified what exactly they are talking about when they describe people as depressed.


from the paper's abstract:

> In three studies, _clinically depressed_ participants were more likely than nondepressed participants to use emotion-regulation strategies in a direction that was likely to maintain or increase their level of sadness. (emphasis mine)


That clarifies a lot, then, thank you.

In this case, then, I don't think the article from the BPS accurately presented the research in the paper. The fact that they specified that it is clinical depression in the abstract is pretty important to the importance of this study. To elide that seems to bury the lede.


Here is an excerpt from an interview with a music therapist about grief and music (written by a wise and caring friend of mine from long ago): "Music: A Natural Accompaniment to Grief Work: An Interview with Music Therapist Lauren DiMaio, PhD. (Story by Katherine Caldwell)" https://missionhealth.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/October...

"During grief, many aspects of our life are raw and painful. It’s common to believe we’re better off avoiding them. But magically, on invisible waves of sound, a piece of music can penetrate into pain we swear was carefully locked away. Within a few chords we can go from “doing just fine” to a searing confrontation with heartache. Of course you might ask: why would we purposely want to do that to ourselves? Grief is tough enough without exposing ourselves to tunes that leave us emotionally wrung out. Perhaps it’s only to say that music is strong medicine. “If a certain piece of music is unbearable, don’t listen to it.” says Dr. DiMaio, “Acknowledge that it’s not helpful at that time. Accept that the piece is only useful in gauging your place on the grief journey at that time.” When confronting the heaviest part of grief, that certain song or hymn, or even a whole genre of music may be impossible to take in. Sad songs of heartbreak or loneliness may, out of respect for our vulnerability, need to be avoided at certain times. Trust your instincts, but don’t turn your back on music completely. Fortunately, music takes infinite forms. If sad tunes are off limits, go on a search for a more joyful noise. Surround yourself with music that speaks to another part of you: songs of celebration and gratitude, or melodies that uplift the spirit. If the music you once loved brings you down these days, it might be appropriate to explore new types of music, things you’ve never listened to before. Changing our internal vibration is what grief recovery is ultimately about on a molecular level. Exposure to inspiring vibrations, even externally, can help us change internally. Finding new music has become easier than ever. Internet searches and downloads make everything published in the music industry readily available, including lyrics."

While grief and depression are not identical, there is a lot of overlap.


I’m a bit confused with the premise. It seems like the article is assuming that sad music makes people sad, then wondering specifically why depressed people would listen to sad music.

But why would anyone listen to sad music if the premise was true? Isn’t it much more likely that the whole reason sad music exists is that it helps people deal with their sadness, not that it causes sadness? Under this hypothesis, it’s not surprising at all that depressed people would listen to a lot of sad music.


As someone who has experienced this firsthand, I think deep / sad music is a depressed person's form of white noise. It satiates the part of your mind that wants you to actively think about why you hate life and allows you to be neutral for a short while. I'm still perplexed by this going through playlists I made while in college during the deepest depths of my depression.


I think in general people revel in the mood they're in and listening to music that supports or amplifies that mood seems common. In a way it legitimizes and validates the feelings they're experiencing by sharing the experience with the music.


> The second part of the study used new music samples: 84 pairs of 10-second clips of instrumental film music, contrasting happy, sad, fear-inducing, neutral, and also high and low energy tracks. In each case the same participants as before indicated which music they’d prefer to listen to again later. They also heard all the samples again at the end and stated what effect they had on their emotions. The researchers found again that people with depression had a far greater preference than controls for sad, low-energy music (but not fear-inducing music). Critically, though, when they heard these clips again, they reported that they made them feel more happiness and less sadness, contradicting the provocative idea that depressed people are seeking to perpetuate their low mood.

Could we control for the musical complexity structure of the samples ? Something along the lines of "complex musical structures pleases depressed people because it requires concentration and cognitive skills that aren't available for negative thoughts pattern" ?


If you're interested in some philosophical perspectives of depression, you may find these pages as interesting as I did:

http://www.newadvent.org/summa/2038.htm

http://www.newadvent.org/summa/2037.htm


As a volunteer at a crisis center, I can tell you that the thing that people most want to hear when they are sad, depressed, or otherwise in crisis is that they want to validate what feelings that they have. In a word, they are feeling awful and want to sit in that feeling, and the music helps listeners process that feeling.


Boomerang effect. You go fast enough into a depressive state to actually feel something, have a good snotty sobbing cry, perhaps with that semi solid yellow stuff coming out of your sinuses, and then come out feeling refreshed and slightly embarrassed hoping you don't enter that state of mind again for a while.


I'm a really happy person but I love depressing music


As miserable as it is to be depressed there may also be something positively reinforcing about it. Anger and hate clearly have that going for them, would it be surprising if sadness does too? If so, listening to sad music may be attractive in that it helps people feel sad.


Music with harmonic frequencies is pleasing. The brain itself has frequencies which can be consonant/dissonant. As other commenters have mentioned, "happy" music is clashing/jarring (which is exactly what dissonance is like) when too far out of that mind-state. I think it's likely that the sound inputs are not harmonic/consonant with the brain's frequencies when the mind-state is much different. Thus, it's not just a matter of the degree of consonance of the input, since music sounds better or worse depending on the state of mind one is in, but the degree of consonance that the input induces in the brain's frequencies.


> but the degree of consonance that the input induces in the brain's frequencies

That sounds incredibly pseudosciencey. Why would the inputs of audible sound compare to your brainwaves? Given that light is also composed of frequencies, is there a link there as well, or because the numbers don't align as well, is it disregarded?


> Why would the inputs of audible sound compare to your brainwaves?

Why wouldn't they affect brainwaves?

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6130927/

> Given that light is also composed of frequencies, is there a link there as well

Sure

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17050390

Not saying this is hard-science yet, just a hypothesis (not my own). You can read more here, if interested:

https://qualiacomputing.com/2017/06/18/quantifying-bliss-tal...


There's no doubt that light and sound affect the brain, our sense wouldn't function otherwise, I just have doubts about there being particular resonances or harmonics.


I find that actually embrassing the depression and be that music or a sad film and letting those negative emotions have focus in a form of distraction. The upside is that after such exposure, the contrast of reality helps raise the mood. Obviously it's not a golden solution and the level of improvement varies as long-standing life issues are still there.

But instead of fighting the depression and feeling more down as you end up failing your own standards - fueling the depression. I find embracing it, have a dam good cry, have no shame in expressing such emotions and with that cut of much of the fuel that whilst does not soley instigate the depression but more prolongs it. Just helps.

Nothing worse than feeling down, and then feeling even more down because your expectation is that you should not feel down. It's a vicious circle of fueling and depressive period. That and worry about how others percieve it and the whole social stigma's of it being a weakness. So being mindful of such a mood and embracing the mood with a good solid cry, whilst not intuitively what you feel will help, actually does. Real key part is that you take control of the depression more than letting the depression take control of you, and by embracing and accepting it you take that step back into a driving seat.

But music is really useful for fixing moods, equally in todays noise poluted enviroments that cause micro-stress (stress you hardly notice but all add up), headphones work wonders. As I have found that stress can and does impact and induce depression. It is identifying those area's of micro-stress and dealing with them that help keep stress in check and with that, depression.

But everybody is an individual, so no solution will work for everybody. Though the side-effects of music are far less than any pharmaceutical offering.

I'd also suggest, try an old album from better times, For me Blondie Parallel Lines does the trick.

Equally some emotionally cold electronic music like some John Foxx renditions help to focus the mood, for me at least. Not what I'd call sad music (though some could), more what I'd class as totally emotionless in many ways.


Because it supports how they feel, this is pretty much how the liking works in general.


I've always found "happy music" to be boring, annoying, and/or aggravating while what most people would consider angry or sad music is uplifting and can positively affect my mood and energy.


I think music has appeal because it's information, albeit processed at a low level, not because it's a mood-altering drug. As with all media, consumers want to feel it's "true". When consuming new information, we need to find something that resonates with our existing understanding to believe its meaningful, and not noise. Somber music feels more like it contains meaning to a person with a somber outlook. Joyful music in that case feels meaningless to the listener, because it fails to connect with what they already understand.


It's math! -1 * -1 = 1


Wait, is it only depressed people that like sad music? What about stories with tragic endings? There must be a lot of depressed people to have made these things so popular over the years.


Nowhere in the article did it state that only depressed people like sad music, just that they are more likely to choose sad music than the controls


Type O Negative and reboot everything


They were one of the very best ever. It's a shame Pete Steel died already.. I heard he was heavily inspired by Lycia, pretty deep too, but not the production level of Type O Negative unfortunately.


In the throes of what was, in retrospect, probably depression, I made a playlist of my 'blues', the saddest songs I knew, to try and get a handle on what I was feeling. Somehow knowing I wasn't unique in sorrow helped, as did hearing how others dealt with it, even in such a packaged form.

Lots of other songs hit closer to home, but, somehow, 'Everybody Plays the Fool' by 'The Main Ingredient' always puts me in a better mood when it comes on.


I’m of the belief that a lot of depression is addiction and accumulated tolerance to the pleasure of being sad. Feeling intense sadness feels really good as your brain releases chemicals to make you feel better.

When feeling sad, a lot of people will tell themselves the worst possible worldview they can conceive to get a surge of deeper sadness and thus relief.

That being said, people tend to listen to music that validates their feelings regardless of the feeling so this isn’t surprising.


This is absolutely ridiculous. Feeling intense sadness does not feel really good. People do not do things to "get a surge of deeper sadness and thus relief". This reads like someone who has never truly experienced depression, or even known anyone who was genuinely depressed. The implications you are making are offensive, unfounded, and incorrect


I’m not saying people seek out being sad to attain pleasure. I’m saying that when people are already sad, pushing the buttons in your brain to explore that sadness results in a positive feeling. Science is already on board that crying releases oxytocin and endorphins. I’m merely suggesting that crying is not absolutely required for the brain offer a similar comforting response when sad.

I further posit that given humans have a tendency to get addicted to any source of endorphins from phone screens to spicy peppers, they can and do get addicted to this one.

If you want to triple down on strictness and say only crying gives pleasure from sadness... sure whatever. I’m not going to make that my hill to die on.

Edit: and note that if someone did accumulate tolerance to natural calming emotional counteragents, that sounds like a very compelling setup for depression.


Does the brain really release feel-good chemicals? I’m not sure I believe that, but I am no expert. :)

Some relatives to me, who are depressed, tend to immerse in self-pity, and that feels good to them. It’s like they live in their own bubble, with a biased interpretation of the world, and they are in the middle of it.


Anecdata of one, yes, it feels very pleasurable, though it may be difficult to recognize this as it’s contextualized in sadness and negative thoughts. I’m referring to mostly mundane exaggerated teenage emotions mind you.

Unless I’m just an emotional masochist, but I suspect not.


I had an epiphany a few years ago related to this while in the midst of a depressive episode. A friend commented on my music selections: "Why do you listen to such sad music?" It caught me completely off guard because to me these were not sad songs but very comforting. I had no awareness that these songs could be interpreted as sad at that time. Looking back it's obvious, but at the time it was just what I felt drawn to...


I've always liked sad music.

But I have to say that I don't associate such music with sadness. Rather more with overcoming things? I am not sure.

When I compose music I focus a lot on half intervals, especially things like major 7th chords and their derivitives.

Obligatory self promotion here: [1].

[1] https://soundcloud.com/philliplyznav/sonic-safety


Funny I was just thinking about this...

I'm actually more productive with music that has a melancholy tone. But it has to be instrumental, human voices are extremely distracting.

Some Chopin works. Some Boards of Canada works. I also get good results with Studio Ghibli soundtrack music:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7LEmer7wwHI


I've always considered sad music a kind of ally - in lieu of a friend you can be quiet with and share your moment. It's a form of communication, and sad music is sharing, well, sadness. I think it makes isolated people feel less lonely.

I'm also keen to hear the mentioned sad piece "Rakavot" by Avi Balili but it doesn't seem to exist online, does anyone have a reference?


Here it is: https://avibelleli.bandcamp.com/track/trains

It's from a film soundtrack, used in the opening scene: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xoC2PHu5f4I

Apparently, they transliterated the guy's name incorrectly (it's Belleli). I found it by searching in Hebrew at which point google managed to correct my spelling.


When you feel completely disconnected from society, the right kind of music gives you something to connect to. Which is something.


The album Lateralus by Tool goes a step further for me. It strikes a balance between depressed and optimistic unlike any other.


As a generally-happy person, I quite like happy songs. I tend to like them more than sad or angry songs.

I'm guessing this is because I identify with them so much more. And I'm guessing that sad people identify with sad things strongly as well.

Perhaps "like" is the wrong word in the title. Perhaps "prefer" is better.


Maybe because when you are depressed you want to hear something that resonates within you? But what is 'Sad' in music? I think you crave for depth in musical emotions, not particularly 'sad' when you are depressed.


In my case, one of the symptoms of my anxiety and depression is to seek out things that make my more worried and sad. It confirms and amplifies my catastrophic thinking. I gather this is a fairly common mode.


Depressed people feel lonely. When you hear a sad song, you relate to the artist. Knowing someone else out there has also been in your situation, makes you feel less lonely.


In order to successfully replicate, the depression meme must get you to feel depressed in the future. Encouraging an interest in sad music can be a part of that cycle.




I love the title and then... "This study is unable to speak to why depressed people find low-energy, sad music uplifting"


Why do sad people like to cry? I think it’s the same answer.


Misery loves company.

Music, films, books, they're virtual companions.


I find musical experience is sometimes push or pull. Occasionally a sad piece will push into that space, but sometimes you are already sad and you search for music to pull into that place with you.


catharsis


So Google/Youtube knows when I'm sad.


No joke this article came in rescue at the exact time. I don't know if you are aware of the "doomer meme" (painfully relatable) but there are this videos with gosh damn songs that makes you fall in bottomless pit with others and then in the comment section where people discuss their misfortunes. E.g video: https://youtube.com/watch?v=TNVqOmJc-YY&t=2s

I think the only way I can fix this is too make videos too and gradually, just like the guy above said make them uplifting:https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19743173. 1:48 Also Sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30 - Strauss and then uplifting music.


TL;dr: "This study is unable to speak to why depressed people find low-energy, sad music uplifting [...]"


LoFi




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