Prof. Leena Sidenur

As Margaret entered the house, after a long day at work, she was welcomed by her loving husband John with a Bryan Adams song, “Everything I do, I do it for you” in the background. She kept her car keys in the foyer cabinet, removed her trench coat and barely managed a smile. This was an everyday thing.

Margaret worked as a manager in a printing press, and John managed his own bakery across the street. He did his baking and cooking in his large kitchenette at home. Two interns who were studying at Spicer University and aspired to be chefs were his assistants. They helped him carry his goodies from home and arranged them neatly in the bakery and also lent him a helping hand with baking large quantities of cakes and condiments. Of course, this bakery was no ordinary one. After all, it belonged to a very passionate and creative man who converted it into a café in no time so that not only youngsters but also people in their 40s and 50s thronged the café for a delicious cuppa with a croissant or a jam roll on the side. It was quiet yet had a buzz about it. Apart from the goodies and the popular chocolate cappuccino that it was famous for, it was also very well known for its music.

From Abba to Bryan Adams to Jennifer Lopez to Justin Bieber, it played all kinds of Western music, the retro and the metro, to suit the café regulars. In fact, many regulars came there for the illustrious playlists that John put together daily. On Sundays. Margaret, like a dutiful wife, would accompany her husband to run the bakery. It was the day off for interns. Hence it was also a bonding time for the husband-wife duo. They worked together, shoulder to shoulder, greeted café visitors with a smile, and John would always present special dishes since it was a Sunday.

Somehow, it never ever went well with Margaret. The moment any music would play, she would become uneasy. She would become highly uncomfortable. Her head would start whirling, and she felt nauseated. However, she would bravely put up a smiling front. This continued for many years until the time had come when Margaret’s discomfort got the better of her, and one day, she exploded, pleading with John to stop playing the music, whether it was at home or at the café. John was baffled by the turn of events. He always believed that Margaret equally enjoyed his playlist, whether it was jazz, heavy metal, rap or just plain pop music. But here, the situation was something totally different and shockingly unexpected! Margaret’s outburst happened at the café, and fortunately, there was a doctor who was not a regular but had walked in to have some signature coffee. He offered to help John, seeing his predicament. They took Margaret home, and after checking the pulse, the doctor told him instantly that Margaret’s was a classic case of ‘Music anhedonia’.

<aside> 🎶 Musical anhedonia is a neurological condition faced by human beings. It is characterised by an inability to relish music. They can recognise and understand it but fail to enjoy it.


This was news for John. A discovery, after 20 years of having been married to Margaret and not knowing her condition or what was now a disorder. He felt grateful to the doctor, who was a saviour that day. He vowed that he would never ever play any music again. Well, that was sad considering the fact that he was so passionate about listening to music himself. But he had made the decision. He would play the music at the café when the missus was not around. And at home, whenever she would return from office, he would just simply welcome her, sans music, sans drama.

We always think and feel that music plays on our senses, that we should listen to music to relax. We can sing and play instruments to bring serenity to our minds. But we should also be aware that the very music that calms one person may be painfully discordant in another mind. Emperor Aurangzeb, the sixth emperor in the Mughal Empire, put a ban on classical music concerts during his reign. Probably he suffered from music anhedonia too.

The next time a friend tells you he/she is not keen on listening to music, do not be surprised. There could be more to it than we realise.