In a recent stunning episode of “explained,” a Netflix original which was created by Vox, a whole cast of researchers, surgeons, industry professionals, and physical therapists explain why music is the universal constant for human language. In particular, they explore how music can help people with movement disorders, such as Parkinson’s Disease, relearn how to speak and move.
The documentary features the personal testimony of Jennifer Lee, who produces melodic, psychedelic bass music as TOKiMONSTA, as a staple example how how music can heal the mind and body.
Lee details her recent embroiled battle with a rare and potentially fatal brain disease called Moyamoya, which involved two highly-invasive brain surgeries that left her without the short-term ability to walk, speak, and even comprehend music. “I couldn’t tell that there was a melody, it just sounded like white noise, like white, metallic noise,” she tells interviewers.
“I wanted to live every moment like it was the last day I’d be able to make music again.” — TOKiMONSTA
She describes hearing words in her native tongue as a completely foreign language. “I couldn’t talk, but I also couldn’t understand anyone else who was talking,” she described. Slowly, Lee regained her ability to comprehend language and had to relearn how to walk, which brought some extreme anxiety along the way.
For a music producer — whose livelihood depends on their brain’s complex ability to understand pitch, tone, beat, and so many other factors coming together at once — one can imagine Lee’s distress. “I watched Portlandia a bunch and that’s where I realized I couldn’t understand music because I couldn’t comprehend the theme song.” Lee explains of her recovery process.
After her second surgery, Lee slowly came around to understand music once more, but she still had to reteach herself how to make it. After three months, she explains, “I went back in and made this song that was amazing and it wasn’t just that the song was amazing, I was able to mix it and make it sound good too. I never worked on a song for long in my life.”