Music eases collective grief — ScienceDaily
In February 2020, a group of musicians from around the world living in China recorded their cover of a Michael Jackson song on video to express their support for families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and those working on the front lines. The video went viral. Now, in a study conducted by UAB’s Department of Psychiatry and Forensic Medicine and Institute for Neuroscience (INC-UAB), researchers are analyzing why the video and song had such a profound effect.
In early 2020, the SARS-CoV-2 virus seemed like a distant problem for most countries. Nevertheless, the virus was becoming epidemic in China and its people were going through very difficult times. It was then that a group of musicians working for Shenzhen Meifeiya Culture Communication Co. Ltd. in Shenzhen, China, used a profile of the Shenzhen Daily newspaper on WeChat, a social network with 1.2 billion monthly active users, to upload a video. with their cover of “You Are Not Alone” by Michael Jackson. The video focused on isolation and overcoming great obstacles, and at the same time aimed to encourage the people of their second homeland, China, by sending a message of positivity and hope.
Now, in a study published in the journal Behavioral sciences, Lydia Giménez-Llort, professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Forensic Medicine and researcher at INC-UAB, analyzes how the music, lyrics and images of the video combine to show empathy and convey a message of support for the citizens of Wuhan in a way that moves viewers. “When I saw the video, I was deeply moved. I felt the suffering of the Chinese people and the musicians, because of their expressions and the striking images of hospitals, ambulances and empty streets,” explains Dr Gimenez-Llort.
Collective mourning is the expression of the maturity, cohesion and respect existing within a society. The objective of this study was to identify the specific traits that enable people to empathize so well with those who experience personal and collective grief, to feel the understanding of others and to assess the tools of individual and social resilience. . In short, to understand how the elements deployed in the video recording of the song served to attenuate a traumatic collective experience.
Positive psychology, music, and songwriting are non-pharmacological strategies that can be of great value in regulating emotions and thoughts, especially in times of sadness and difficulty. “They did a cover of a ballad, a kind of romantic song asking a question in one verse and answering it in the next. And of all the ballads, they chose ‘You Are Not Alone’, which describes misunderstanding of someone who has lost their loved one and who as the days go by feels the unbearable weight of loneliness, despite being surrounded by people, so there is a great similarity between the original song and the situation in Wuhan, a city that originally stood alone in the face of the explosion of the epidemic, while the rest of the world closed its borders and could do little more from a distance.But its main value lies in the fact that the version for China rescales this emotional suffering on a social level and accompanies it with responses that point to several elements of social strength and resilience. And this is done through the voices of foreigners who feel that China is their country of adoption, and includes the partic ipation of Chinese children as an element of purity and hope for the future. Thus, the person who listens to the song feels the understanding of others and realizes that not only does he have external support, but he is also internally and collectively very strong, he is not alone,” explains Dr Giménez-Llort. . , the video plays with changes in rhythm (different angles, length of shots, etc.) and non-verbal communication in order to reinforce the empathy with which the situation is described and the message of support that is conveyed.
With regard to lyrics, the researcher was able to identify typical grieving process elements, such as the five stages described by Kübler-Ross (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance), Stroebe’s dual-process model and Schut (change between loss and restoration), Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological model of human development (re-dimensioning individual experiences into social experiences), and Taylor’s friendship-proneness model (describing how women within social structure cope with problems or times of stress by seeking short and long-term social support and attention).
Finally, the study also analyzes other musical events occurring around the world and memorable reformulated songs during the pandemic that have played an important role in creating social cohesion during times of self-isolation and mourning. This study sheds light on the role of music and other art forms which, through our emotional and social brains, can help us individually and collectively cope with sudden and dramatic situations, thereby alleviating physical distance and human suffering, and overcoming all cultural barriers.
The study is included in a special issue dedicated to “New psychological perspectives on death and dying – between normality and the COVID-19 emergency”, edited by Associate Professor Dr Inés Testoni, internationally renowned for his “Death Studies & End of Life” at the University of Padua, Italy, and at the University of Haifa, Israel.