Music for Migraines

I’m writing this on the train from Hamburg to Mannheim. I can’t take any migraine medicine, but I really wish I could. If I could write my brain an email right now it would go something like this: “Dear brain, I HATE YOU. DIE! Love, Katie” (Love because I’m polite and I don’t really want my brain to die. In fact, I promised Paul last night that I would wear a bike helmet – not that I ever don’t – at least until I finished my doctorate. Them brainz must stay intact. Then zombies can eat them. They will probably be yummier after all the knowledge.)

Anyways, one of my magical non-medication solutions for migraines is music. I thought I’d written about this before, but I can’t find any record of it. So I write it again.

Last night, I was at a fantastic King’s Singers concert. It was in Meldorf, Germany and was at the Cathedral or Dom. It was a HUGE deal, locally. The concert programme was called Pange Lingua and was centered around Gregorian chants and then accompanying music by Bruckner, Duruflé, Gesualdo, and de Victoria. I forget how much I love hearing concerts like that, in the setting they were meant to be heard in.


And this picture is just for my mom. Because it was specially requested 🙂 Although it’s a terrible shot. Sorry mom!


But that’s not exactly why I’m writing. Although it is in part. Because some of the music, as it was sung, all I could think was “I need to add this to my migraine mix.” Yes, I have a migraine playlist. Right now it’s pretty boring. (In it’s lack of diversity, that is.) Currently it consists of the entire “The Golden Age – Siglo de Oro” album of Spanish Renaissance music from the King’s Singers. The idea behind this music is that it has to be very interesting musically: this almost always means polyphonic choral music. In addition, it should be fairly steady dynamically and also in terms of range. If it is too loud or high, it won’t work in my mix. This generally means that King’s Singers music comes out on top in my mixes.

The music has a calming influence on me and is especially good if I am high strung or needing to sleep. On a day like today, it actually doesn’t work very well. There’s too much external noise and commotion. Today, I’m just putting my ipod on shuffle and when a song starts playing that won’t work, I immediately press next.

Searching for Music

I had one specific shopping mission for this trip. I wanted to buy a Rajaton album in Finland. Rajaton is a Finnish a capella group and their albums are a) hard to find in the US and b) expensive in the US. So that was one of my goals.

But that was apparently too simple for me. Yesterday I went to Tallinn, Estonia. And I decided it would be cool to have a Arvo Pärt cd from Estonia. Pärt is an Estonian classical composer with a very cool style. I actually got Simon hooked on him last year. But I digress. In order to have a Pärt cd, I needed to find a cd shop. The easiest way to do that was to find the little shopping cart symbol on the map and go there. It turns out the symbol I headed to was a GIANT shopping mall. But luckily they had exactly one cd store. And that store had a plethora of Arvo Pärt cds to choose from. But that cd wasn’t enough. I also decided to buy a cd of the Estonian Song Festival. This is a festival held every four years and can have up to 30,000 singers.

This is the stage that can hold 30,000 people (include the concrete up to the grass). There is, in fact, a giant blue tarp over one section. I don't know why.

During the Festival there would be benches for people to sit on here. The walkway runs parallel to the stage.

Actually my minister and his partner were here at the beginning of the month to see the Young Person’s Song Festival which is held in alternate 2 years. I think it’s the same thing, except with young people. Our 17 year old bike tour guide said he’d performed in an orchestra for one or the other festival six times in his life. I was suitably impressed.

Sometimes other things happen there too. “The biggest concerts were Michael Jackson and Rod Stewart.” – Daniel, the tour guide. Apparently Rod Stewart has lots of Estonian fans.

But I digress again. If you want to know more about the song festivals, you should probably go to Wikipedia. Cause I really don’t know that much.

Anyways. I bought that cd. And I came back to Helsinki and it was late, so I couldn’t listen to either.

Today I started on my Rajaton mission. After failing to find a record store in not one, but two malls, I headed to what my guidebook called a record shop like in High Fidelity. I asked the clerk/owner? about Rajaton, he said they didn’t have any. But then I felt said inside. So I said, “Do you have anything like that, but maybe more local?” And he lit up. He said, “Let me think about it.” And I browsed. Then he called me over. He found not one, not two, but about 8 records he thought would be of interest to me. “We will just pick them out and then you can listen and find your favorites.” And that’s what I did. Only I listened to only 4. But I bought 3.

A women’s a capella original popish album, a women’s Rajaton-ish type album, and a men’s a capella folk album with the most hilarious liner notes ever.

“For a while I didn’t like Rajaton, so I don’t keep them in the store anymore,” the guy said. Suits me. I got WAY more out of that than I expected.

BUT THEN I went to the department store that he thought would have Rajaton and I got 4 albums for 6.90 euros each. WAY less than they would have cost in the US.

So basically the gist of this story is that now I have a LOT of cds I’m carting around with me. I’m probably lucky I got to Malmô after the shops closed today otherwise I’d have a lot of Real Group albums too…