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I started decreasing the amount of music I listened to before and especially after I started meditating so that I had to cope less with replaying music passages and enjoy a clearer and more silent mind. Even though now I do not actively listen any more music, sometimes I happen to hear some passages from a TV, a radio or randomly on the Internet, and on certain occasions, while sitting or doing some work, it happens that a certain "mental process" starts reproducing music fragments that I've been exposed to, or that for some reason - for example, through a synesthetic "link" - I've recollected from the past.

I would like to receive some suggestions, and even some observations based on what fields like neurology, psychology etc. offer when relevant, on how to silence my mind when it tries to reproduce fragments of music automatically.

This question originates from a personal need, but I think that it could apply more generally even to other circumstances and for other people. When several months ago I was trying to weaken this automatic habit of reproducing music in my head, I remember I had to apply myself with perseverance for several days, and that the kind of noise from music seemed unusually stronger than any other I had experienced before.

  • I don't think you mean "contrast": I think you mean "difficult to stop" (i.e. "difficult to stop mentally reproducing music"), and/or "difficult to counter-act" (i.e. "difficult to take action against the tendency to replay music mentally"). – ChrisW Oct 30 '16 at 14:24
  • Thinking a bit more about it, I also notice how one may wish to continue reproducing music when, for example, a certain song is particularly appreciated. Couldn't "controlling" be even more adequate than "contrasting" and "stopping"? – Acsor Oct 30 '16 at 14:31
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    Yes, "control"; or sometimes Buddhist texts say "abandon", meaning something like, "leave behind". I think that "to contrast", though, means "to highlight or to emphasize the difference between one thing and another" which doesn't make sense to me in this context. – ChrisW Oct 30 '16 at 16:41
  • I now realize your advice more than before and I thank you for that. It was not a matter of vocabulary choice, but perhaps a real misuse of the verb to contrast. I'm not a native english speaker and in my own native language to contrast is a synonym for to oppose or to be against sth/sb. Apparently, in English there is no such use for to contrast. Four checks out of four dictionaries seem to have confirmed this. – Acsor Oct 30 '16 at 19:10
  • Reminds me of a toxin that remains in your system. You can let it go, rather than add suffering, or also try flushing it out with other music. – avatar Korra Aug 30 '18 at 1:14
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Sounds are processed in the temporal lobes, which have a very strong connection with the limbic system (the one that processes, among others, memory and emotion). Just to have an idea about how strong this connection is, a person that has a seizure or a stroke in the temporal lobes can actually hear real sounds - people talking, music playing - they can hear(not just in the head) songs they knew and liked or disliked decades ago (apparently, we don't lose any memories, we just can't seem able to find these memories).

When we hear a song (temporal lobes), it activates emotions (limbic system) which gives that sound a certain energy and fixating it in the memory (limbic system). By trying not to think about a song, we create what it's called ""counter -intentional effect - "not thinking about X" actually activates X. Plus, by not liking that thought, we give it even more energy, making the thought more and more activated and more likely to show up.

In everyday life, when we hear a song playing, by being mindful (it's just a sound), we don't make a strong connection between that sound and an emotion (positive or negative), meaning, we don't give that sound power. If the memory of a song still comes up, the best thing to do is to see it just as it is (a thought), without giving it power by liking or disliking it. Trying to suppress the thought will keep that thought activated in the mind.

I hope you find this explanation useful. Good luck in your practice! Be well.

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    I definitely like the part about the limbic system. That may explain why I always hear the Rolling Stone's song "Beast of Burden" whenever I go backpacking! ;-) – user698 Nov 4 '16 at 14:14
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When we sit, we pass through different phases of consciousness. At first our mind is active and discursive. It ruminates over all manner of things, rehearses events to come, and rehashes those that have past. As we move towards stillness - which can be done simply by sitting quietly in one place - our mind settles into a more passive state. Rather than taking an active role in the creation of our thoughts, our mind relaxes, revealing its deeper layers. At this point, things may begin to spring up unbidden. Sometimes we can experience memories from long ago, other times we may see fragments of pictures in our minds, and sometimes we may experience traces of emotion that have no obvious cause. If you spend any amount of time listening to music, recollection of song is also exceedingly common.

Don't worry about about the music. If you persist in your sitting, it will begin to fade. Song is just a different kind of thought. Treat it like you would any other - let it have its space, don't try to chase it down or drown it out, sit still, and do your best to maintain attention on your breath.

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    "Song is thought" - precisely. Running through musical passages in the head is a form of memory, and memory is thought [Thought that is happening now, but whose contents are in the past]. It is important to recognize thoughts are not their content, just as a picture of the moon is not the moon. – Jeff Wright Nov 3 '16 at 17:27
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    Hah! Not entirely related, but this just showed up on CNN.com - cnn.com/2016/11/03/health/song-stuck-in-head-earworm-study/… – user698 Nov 3 '16 at 19:42
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Yes I don't know if my answer is on-topic; maybe it helps you to recognize what music is.


Music is kind of designed to be memorable.

The music which you (and other people) remember is music which has proven itself to be memorable.

I read that The Beatles didn't know how to write music: and so their songs (especially their early songs), which they played, were only whichever songs they were able to remember the next day.

My grandfather had a similar technique, by the way, for writing children's stories: he would tell children a story, and then asked the children the next day to tell the story back to him -- whichever bits of the story the children were able to remember were the memorable bits, and popular with the children, and those were the bits of story which he wrote in the official/published version of the story.

Anyway, components of a music (e.g. a popular song) which help to make it memorable include:

  • Words:
    • Familiar words (e.g. in a language you know)
    • A story (narrative) and/or characters (people), which are emotive (a love song, a sad song, a let's-get-to-work song)
    • Rhythm and rhyme (i.e. poetry)
    • A chorus (repeated words)
  • Music:
    • Familiar scale (selection of notes)
    • Melody
    • Harmony
    • Rhythm
    • Repetition (not only is the chorus repeated, but also all the verses of a song usually have the same tune)

You also (in this age of recorded music) hear the music more than once.

Music is surprisingly memorable. A music radio station, which I used to hear, used to have a phone-in competition: they'd play a fragment (maybe half a second or two seconds) of a popular song, and ask the listeners to name the song.

The ability to recognize small bits of sense-input and associate it with the whole of a larger previous learned experience is more-or-less what brains do: e.g. hear a spoken word, recognize that as mother's voice, associate that with etc.

Another reason it's difficult to control is because you think that you can (and to some extent you train yourself to be able to) listen to music while you're doing something else.

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In practicing meditation, if you hear something(maybe music or voice), just note "hear, hear". No more thinking further. If all these cannot noted mindfully, surely will lead to other things one may think related or unrelated, actually all are really related, related to your past events not only this life. So the main aim of meditation is to get rid of all these clinging to the past and present action one have to do is note down very mindfully every phenomenon. But sitting meditation is easier to get rid of these thing, later in every posture, every situation you can get rid of it. Never try to control it. Just note "hear, hear", sometimes just "know it, know it" is enough so that no need to analyse whether hearing or thinking or knowing.

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