David Browne
May 16, 1997 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Music for the Soul

Current Status
In Season

We gave it a B

Dear Diary:

What a stress-filled day I’ve had. People think it’s easy being an abs trainer at the biggest gym in town. But the pressure gets to me sometimes, especially from all those tire-rimmed boomers complaining that they haven’t slimmed down yet. As I was waiting for my class to filter in, though, I read in the latest issue of my favorite yoga magazine, Stretch Illustrated, that there are now companion CDs to two of my favorite books, Care of the Soul and Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. Sounds like what I need to deal with all this negative energy!

Dear Spiritual Journal:

That’s what my yoga teacher suggests I call these entries from now on — ”diary,” he says, isn’t unearthly enough. Anyway, went to the record store today and asked for Thomas Moore’s Music for the Soul. I loved how Moore’s book inspires us to ditch traditional therapy in favor of activities that bring us back in harmony with the planet around us. Went to the record store in the mall. Some snooty grunge-kid clerk directed me to quadrant 5A, and I found myself in front of James Brown CDs. ”Not that soul!” I yelled.

Dear Spiritual Journal:

On the way home, read the back cover of Music for the Soul, which recommends that I ”meditate to it, sit with it…[it’s] solid food for the soul.” But wait — how the hell do you get this shrink-wrap off a CD?! And what’s with that plastic sliver beneath it — it says ”Pull,” but when I did, it broke off and I had to pick at it to open the damn jewelbox!

Okay, I’m back in control. Turns out the album is devoted to hymns and orchestral pieces, and it’s pretty soothing — as if Enya was around in 1840.

”Notice the colors you sense as the music sets your imagination in motion,” writes Moore in the notes. The only colors I see are those of my gym shorts hang-drying in the bathroom, but anyway — Moore has picked compositions to evoke loss (Gorecki’s Symphony No. 3 — second movement) and nature (Picker’s ”Old and Lost Rivers”). Poulenc’s ”Salve Regina” will help me ”live a life of mild eccentricity and restrained sensuality.” Cool — just like Odelay!

Dear Spiritual Journal:

What time is it? This music made me so relaxed that I fell asleep. Hey, what’s that noise? Damn, the construction crew is back! I cranked the song meant to suggest death — Part’s ”Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten” — but the jackhammer drowned it out.

Dear Spiritual Journal:

The past few days haven’t been so hot. My girlfriend left me because I kept playing Music for the Soul. ”Don’t you have anything with a beat?” she said. ”And what kind of name is Arvo Part?”

So right after abs class, I picked up the album for Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus: Songs for Loving Couples. I never read Dr. John Gray’s book, but according to the liner notes, the songs ”celebrate the joys of love, the pain of rejection, and the drive for connection with another human being.” I could sure use that now.

Dear Spiritual Journal:

I didn’t think it was possible to write a song called ”Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus,” but someone did it. It’s a duet between Regina Belle and Jeffrey Osborne. He coos, ”I’ve seen stardust in your hair,” and she responds, ”Your kiss is proof there’s life out there!” The rest of the album is more duet love songs, all with a soft R&B flavor. Can’t remember the last time I heard Lionel Richie and Diana Ross’ ”Endless Love” or Peabo Bryson and Roberta Flack’s ”Tonight I Celebrate My Love.”

Dear Spiritual Journal:

Now I remember why I haven’t heard those songs in a while — they make me want to upchuck my granola fruit shake! My stereo feels like it’s stuck on those icky lite-FM stations I used to come across in the ’80s.

Just when I was ready to hit ”Stop,” one of my co-instructors called. And guess what — she hates the CD too! We’re getting together after work to discuss it! Mental note: Send thank-you note to Dr. Gray!

Dear Spiritual Journal:

On the way to class, plan to stop by the used-CD store and trade in my Mars CD. (For now, I’ll keep Music for the Soul, for when I need a nap after exercise.) Wonder if they sell any workout-music tapes there? B

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