In February 2016 I had the opportunity to buy the domain name Musicto.com. Musicto had been trademarked as a record label in 2005 but the trademark had lapsed in 2008 and was available. My father had died the previous March and I spent the last of my inheritance on establishing the label.
By May we started brainstorming album names. I’d been grieving the loss of my Father and couldn’t help but resonate with the idea of Music to Grieve to. I’m a Psychology major, had volunteered for the London Night-Line as a student, my Mother had been a Samaritan and I had worked for a patient advocacy group for EDS, I thought I knew about Grief.
How about an album based on the Five Stages of Grief - I would sit down and think of each emotion and how it related to my own grief. There would be 5 tracks delivering about an hour’s worth of music - everyone goes through the process so it would be totally relatable. All I needed to do was produce the music.
How Not To Write Music
If you don’t how I create, I’m like the Elizabeth Gilbert of music - I have to show up everyday and hack through it. Sure I might get the idea for a theme in the shower or a snippet of melody in a dream but you won't find me rushing to mark that down on manuscript paper with a pencil - all music2work2 is hammered out on the piano. I record everything and spend more time listening than I do actually playing.
After my daily playing sessions I take the tracks that I think might have a hint of something and move them onto my daily listening playlist. While I’m helping businesses grow I’m listening to the music and when I get lost – when a piece of music sends me away to that space where I flow – where I’m rolling and producing my best work – that’s a theme I hone in on and listen to again.
I’ll listen to it on repeat for as long as I need to until it seeps slowly into my consciousness. The next day’s session at the piano I’ll take the theme out for a spin – I’ll start to examine it – I’ll play with tempo, with time signature, – and I’ll play it until I find something that works – consistently. Something that sounds good – something that sounds good to strangers.
Struggling With the Five Stages
I already had the first and last tracks - Loss and Acceptance were both about my Dad and felt right starting and ending the album. Depression wasn’t a problem, I already had a theme that matched that perfectly - what was bugging me was Anger and Bargaining.
I knew that I didn’t have an Anger track - I had tried to find a theme but nothing would come out and I was starting to question the whole idea when I found an acceptable solution - Anger was similar to Frustration in many ways - my most popular track, that had been listened to for over 1 million minutes on YouTube alone, was called Frustration. Great - I’d have that remastered to fit the album - which left me with one track to create - Bargaining.
And I struggled, I struggled because I couldn’t identify with the emotion.
Who was I trying to bargain with - what was I bargaining for? My Dad was dead, gone, not coming back - and it was natural - it was right. There was nothing I could do to change that. The more I played the track the more I started remembering my time with my Dad:
Jungle expeditions in Singapore, driving to the South of France, visiting Surgeons, the bottles from grateful patients, “Father Son Barbecues,” playing golf, playing snooker in The Mess with a half pint at 14, These Things Shall Be, the man in the mirror, worker or wanker, conversations, discussions and laughter, so much wonderful laughter.
This wasn't me bargaining - this was me remembering.
They're memories and they're beautiful, but sad and they make me smile and cry at the same time - but they're not bad - they're the good things that for now wear a blanket of sadness, but soon will become sustenance and treasured and joyful, but for now - they make me cry.
Breaking The Kubler-Ross Model
It's incredibly stressful - trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. The idea of a track for each of the 5 stages: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance was elegant but I couldn't honestly deliver a track for each element. Once I had got my head round that, everything started to flow again.
We still ended up publishing an album called Music to Grieve to and yes some of the tracks share the names of the emotions in the 5 stages but not all. But funnily enough, it got me to investigate the original Kubler-Ross idea only to find out that the 5 stages stemmed from research into how terminally ill patients react to a diagnosis. So it seems that I and probably many millions of others have been wrong about applying the 5 stages to our grieving process, particularly when it comes to how one feels after the loss of a loved one.
This was one of the driving factors behind our decision to launch The Grief Directory - you should check it out.
Find Us On Spotify
We're going to be focusing a lot on Spotify over the coming year - it is by far the biggest revenue source for Musicto and music2work2 and the best way for you to support us is to listen to and share our playlists.
We will be developing the Music to Grieve to playlist by adding new tracks so make sure you choose to follow.
Aside from following Musicto and music2work2 on Spotify you can of course sign up for the email list. We only ever contact you when we have new music available.