One sunny and beautiful morning this week — yesterday, in fact — I awoke after a rare solid night of sleep, got into work early and was sailing into my workday with a smile on my face when an inaccurate barb from an arriving colleague about the quality of my mood proved such a self-fulfilling prophecy that I closed my door for the rest of the morning. After relating the episode to a friend via email, she wrote back, “have you tried the Joshua Bell station on Pandora?”
For the uninitiated, Joshua Bell is the preeminent classical violin virtuoso of his age. He happened to attend my alma mater, and I also happened to have studied classical piano for many years as I was growing up, so I know who he is. Even if you don’t know his name, you may have heard about the world-class violinist who played for spare change one morning in the D.C. subway tunnels and was pretty much ignored by the commuters rushing by. That was him. The Washington Post did a story on it and it the accompanying video made its way onto YouTube. It’s a fascinating read.
In any case, I love the violin and, depending on the composer, I love classical music, so off to Pandora.com I trotted. Type “Joshua Bell” into the “station or artist” slot, and they describe his music this way: “features a singing, mellifluous aesthetic, a tranquil mood, a bittersweet sentiment, a well-known composer and a romantic-era style.” Not all of what I heard throughout the day lived up to the quality of Chopin, but within about an hour I felt like someone had slipped me a Valium.
Safely cocooned behind my door, I relaxed. I smiled. The world fell away, and it was just me, the music and my computer screen. It was the happiest day I’ve had at work maybe ever. I was productive, mostly uninterrupted, and immune from the social vagaries of my office mates, who sometimes forget they’re in a workplace and seem instead to think that they inhabit the halls of a sorority, God love them. I finally opened my door, but left the ear buds where they were.
This morning, I again gravitated to Pandora and was immediately treated to the rich, mellifluous renderings of Yo-Yo Ma. My heart rate slowed immediately. My shoulders relaxed. I imagine my blood pressure dropped. As though the station really is Valium, I am hooked. And now, I’m dealing in the stuff: go try it. No charge.