The sound of music

What I'm doing to decompress

Art: The San Giobbe Altarpiece Detail of Music Making Angels, Giovani Bellini, 1480

Stuff is really stressful right now. It’s usually stressful, but with the extra added bonus of coronavirus and the possibility of running out of formula, not to mention Instagram medical influencers, my mind has been in a dark place lately.

My husband has been feeling the same way, particularly a couple months ago, when we had a newborn with colic and a preschooler adjusting to having a brother. In the five minutes between when our daughter went to bed at night and our son woke up for feedings, my husband would sit on the couch and watch dueling piano music on YouTube.

I’m not sure how he came across this genre, but basically, for some reason, in Europe (and in the US, too, but not as much) there are lots of public pianos, and people come and play them, and there are actually lists and lists of people playing together.

These videos are a joy to watch, because there is no technology involved. It’s just people vibing with each other over something very universal. They make me happy and relaxed. (Although, now, whenever I hear the tinkle of two people at the keyboard, I get nightmarish flashbacks to the days when I got two hours of sleep at a time. )

My own equivalent of this has been listening to choirs. In Russia, choir music has long been a  beautiful tradition because the Orthodox church forbid the use of musical instruments other than the human voice, and I started out by listening to Russian Orthodox chants.

Even though I’m Jewish, and there is an extremely long and contentious relationship between the Russian Orthdox Church and Jews, I still find this music extremely universal, elevating, and soothing.

One of my favorite albums is still one that I discovered in my local public library when I was 11 (coincidentally, it makes great music to concentrate to):

From there, I moved on to Scottish and Irish folk music. The Corries, who I’ve loved since I went to Scotland in 2011, have long been a favorite of mine. 

But my latest recent guilty pleasure is barbershop quartets

I always assumed they were just punchlines in jokes, but apparently they are extremely real and very active, and there is actually a Barbershop Harmony Society that has concerts and competitions.

It’s a delight to listen to:

I’m not sure what it is, and why it makes me feel so calm and happy, but I think mostly it’s because there is:

  1. No technology

  2. No level of snark or sarcasm like we often see on Twitter where everything has some kind of hidden subtext

  3. People working together 

  4. To make good music

  5. The banter! It’s so great. 

Since the New Year, I vowed to be more positive about tech and I’m happy that YouTube, with all its flaws, is bringing it to me. 

If you have any particularly relaxing music that you love, feel free to share in the comments.

What I’m reading lately:

  1. Edith is on fire lately, both about Matt Levine and that guy from lost

  2. VIP tours of Disney for $400 an hour

  3. If you are looking to learn Javascript, Dan Abramov is doing a newsletter course that is easily some of the best content in my inbox lately.

  4. More on music: a newsletter of music to concentrate to every day

  5. Health insurance business models

  6. Anil out here asking the right questions

The Newsletter:

This newsletter’s M.O. is takes on tech news that are rooted in humanism, nuance, context, rationality, and a little fun. It goes out once a week to free subscribers, and once more to paid subscribers. If you like it, forward it to friends and tell them to subscribe!

Swag: Stickers. Mug. Notepad.

The Author:
I’m a data scientist. Most of my free time is spent wrangling a preschooler and a baby, reading, and writing bad tweets. Find out more here or follow me on Twitter.