Music with special powers

Everyone likes a mystery. And what is better than a possibly supernatural mystery surrounding a piece of music or artwork?

Like that Pink Floyd album that syncs up with The Wizard of Oz?

What about that Led Zeppelin tune that says Satanic things if you play it backwards?

You know that Shakespeare’s Macbeth is cursed right? Mysterious accidents often happen to actors who dare participate in the production.

The other day, I was listening to an album I hadn’t touched for a couple years: La Luna, by Sarah Brightman. It’s an odd mix of pop covers and classical vocal (and instrumental) pieces re-arranged. One of the tunes is Gloomy Sunday, a cover of an old Billy Holiday jazz song.

It turns out this piece has alleged special powers. When you listen to it, it makes you want to commit suicide! True story.

And we aren’t talking about the “oh my gosh, this music is so awful, it makes me want to kill myself just so I don’t have to listen to it anymore”. No, no. That phenomenon can be frequently observed, for example, when Nickelback comes on the radio.

This song is about a lonely lover whose mate has died. And they want to end it all too and join them. And if you listen to it… you’ll feel an unmistakable urge to slit your own wrists. Just maybe.

It’s kind of like how listening to Rock ‘N’ Roll compels you to be sexually promiscuous, only more specific.

Wikipedia of course provides a nice overview of the mythology surround the piece, including these tidbits

The Japanese movie Densen Uta (2007) was also inspired by this song. In the movie, a high school girl and a magazine editor investigate a series of suicides linked to a mysterious song released 10 years back, including its possible connection to “Gloomy Sunday”.

The song and its surrounding legend play a considerable part in Phil Rickman’s novel The Smile of a Ghost, linked to several apparent suicides.

And you can’t beat this next one:

The song inspired the Spanish movie The Kovak Box (2006). A writer is trapped on the island of Majorca with people who are injected with a microchip that causes them to commit suicide when they hear “Gloomy Sunday”.


Anyway, it’s actually a pretty nice tune. Check it out. Just be careful. If you start to feel depressed, take the antidote: Look on the Bright Side of Life from Monty Python’s The Life of Brian.