Palm 2 Digital Pulse Massager

  • TENS electrotherapy is a real scientific science thing
  • Stick on the pads, crank the juice, feel the relief
  • Eight massage modes (including “one soothing haiku mode”?), 20 strength levels, and an adjustable timer
  • Runs on a rechargeable internal Li-ion battery, not chakras or auras or something
  • Model: Palm Massager 101325 (well, well, it just so happens that the standard atmosphere unit of pressure is 101325 Pascals… COINCIDENCE??)
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Ahhhhhh: 12 Shades of Musical Relaxation

Hey, Meh writer @JasonToon here. Today’s Palm Massager 2 uses electrical pulses to stimulate and soothe your sore muscles. Which got me thinking about using musical pulses to soothe your weary spirit. For years, I was one of those amped-up youths who thought any music that was “relaxing” was inherently inane, boring, mere “easy listening”, an escapist copout from a dangerous world. I only respected music as jagged and nervy and squirmy as I felt.

Of course, nobody can live like that forever. As I got older and tapped out of the neverending struggle against my surroundings, I realized that creating a genuinely soothing, relaxing mood with music can be just as powerful an accomplishment as any raw howl of indignation. It was music like “Loverman”, a 1949 piece by pianist Lennie Tristano and sax player Warne Marsh, that showed me how relaxation and expression were not mutually exclusive:

A door swung gently open, and I was able to hear the soul in music I would once have dismissed as Starbucks wallpaper. The three Diabaté brothers from Guinea formed African Virtuoses in the 1970s to expand on their father Papa Diabaté’s pioneering guitar sound. Cascading aural waterfalls like “Nanibali” (1983) make me grateful they did:

I first heard this next piece when my wife played it on piano. Erik Satie wrote his *Gymnopedies" piano pieces in the 1880s to be played in cafes, subversively slipping a dose of surrealism and dissonance into these little glasses of musical absinthe:

David Carbonara’s scores for Mad Men are one more, mostly unheralded reason why it’s the most entertaining TV show ever made. The title piece from the 2010 episode “Beautiful Girls” is used with an ironic twist in the story. It’s literal elevator music for the three women it’s referring to, none of whom are especially relaxed in the moment. Heard on its own, it’s a gorgeous tribute to the great Hollywood scores of the era:

During my angsty youth, the one relaxing musical style I would permit myself was reggae, because sometimes it talked about struggle and revolution. But - don’t tell anyone - other times it was just purely joyful on a sonic level. Dennis Bovell’s 1978 cut “Ska-Bee-Doo-Za” takes the melody line from “Surrey With the Fringe On Top” and eases it into a warm bath of synthesizer dub:

Much of acoustic guitar visionary John Fahey’s work is unsettling, teasing out the darkness in the shadows of early American musical traditions. But when his hand turned to more comforting fare like this 1978 take on the standard “Candy Man”, he expressed it just as deeply as his more haunting pieces:

Once my ears opened up and got ready to relax, nothing was off the table. I heard even very familiar music anew, like Henry Mancini’s mostly instrumental version of his Breakfast at Tiffany’s classic “Moon River”, released in 1962:

And sometimes I found the peace I sought in the strangest places. Eric Sahlström’s early 20th century work with the nyckelharpa, a medieval Swedish folk fiddle with keys, brought the instrument back into Scandinavian music and revived interest in the country’s traditional culture. Which is all very interesting, but man, check out the sound:

One of the commenters on this YouTube post of the Brothers Johnson’s “Tomorrow” (1976) gets it right: “As much as I love this song, it definitely sounds like the perfect elevator song.” That’s one elevator ride that would keep me on past my floor:

The aforementioned Mad Men also introduced me to the lovely “Maria Elena” (1963). Los Indios Tabajaras were two brothers from Brazil whose music was marketed as pop-ethnic kitsch in the USA, but wherever you file it, this sounds authentically great to me:

Serious jazz artists like pianist Bill Evans and guitarist Jim Hall would probably take “relaxing” as an insult. So I’ll just say that their 1962 piece “Skating in Central Park” evokes a beautifully introspective mood:

We’re almost to the end of this list, and I haven’t even touched on the vast world of electronic ambient music. That’s because I don’t know anything about it. But even a n00b like me knows enough to nod to Brian Eno, who created the genre with his 1978 masterpiece Music for Airports. Decades of followers would say he fulfilled his aim to make music “as ignorable as it is interesting”:

The Palm Massager 2 apparently works for soothing sore muscles. But you can’t stick those electrode pads in your ears. I hope these 12 very different, all soothing tracks have helped you chill out this Sunday. And as somebody who’s still looking for more, I’d appreciate it if you shared your sonic relaxers in the forum. Until our next weekend playlist, take it easy.

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