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In 2011, a British band joined forces with a group of sound therapists to create “The Most Relaxing Tune Ever”. Yet since 2011 the world has somehow become more stressed out, strung-up, and on edge. It’s about time we revisited some of those more tranquilizing numbers.

Can Music Really Help Us Relax?

Since classical antiquity, when Apollo was the God of Music, people have held that music has the power to penetrate the soul. That its powers stretch further than the mere ability to vibrate our eardrums. That music can actually heal our mind, body, and soul.

Whether or not you take this view, there’s no denying that music has a powerful ability to shape our environment. It’s the subtle chord changes, the tempo, the rhythm, and the harmonies. This is what affects the emotions, performance, and even purchase intentions of ourselves and those around us.

  • study from the 1990s showed that the “mood” of the music we listened to influenced our perceptions of others.
  • A study from 2002 showed that arithmetic performance in primary school pupils could be improved by playing calming music. More aggressive music had a negative impact on performance.
  • A study from 1998 showed that listening to grunge music increased levels of hostility, sadness, and tension. “New Age” music had varying results. “Designer Music” (music engineered for specific reactions) could improve mental clarity, caring, and relaxation.

The idea that music can be designed to evoke specific reactions is what’s fascinating here. Take the sessions that produced the “Most Relaxing Tune Ever”. The aim was to create a song to induce a serenity and calmness in people that surpassed anything else out there. The result was Weightless by Manchester Trio, Marconi Union

1. Marconi Union – Weightless

According to Shortlist, this song is “even more relaxing than a massage, walk, or cup of tea”. The engineering behind the song was drawn from scientific theory to slow breathing and reduce mental activity. Its strategic bass-lines, rhythms, and harmonies work to induce a biting sleepiness. Enough sleepiness, in fact, for motorists to be warned not to listen to the song while driving. As reported in The Telegraph:

“Studies found Weightless was 11 per cent more relaxing than any other song and even made many of the women ‘drowsy’ in the lab … It induced a 65 per cent reduction in overall anxiety and brought them to a level 35 per cent lower than their usual resting rates.”

After around five minutes of listening to a song, your heart starts to match the beat of the music, or is at least heavily influenced by that beat. This is called “entrainment”, and explains why Weightless (YouTube, Spotifystarts at 60 beats per minute, later slowing to 50 beats per minute. This lowered heart rate naturally leads to a fall in blood pressure and eases anxiety.

Founder of the British Academy of Sound Therapy, Liz Cooper, goes on to explain:

“The harmonic intervals – or gaps between notes – have been chosen to create a feeling of euphoria and comfort. And there is no repeating melody, which allows your brain to completely switch off because you are no longer trying to predict what is coming next … Instead, there are random chimes, which helps to induce a deeper sense of relaxation. The final element is the low, whooshing sounds and hums that are like buddhist chants [that] put you in a trance-like state.”

If you’re curating your own Relaxation playlist, you should keep all of that in mind. Enough of the science though. The vast majority of listeners to Weightless concur in their view as to its calming influence. After listening to it myself while having a lie down, I’ll admit struggling to climb back out of bed at 2 o’clock in the afternoon.

Relaxing Music

All is not uniform in the public opinion department, however. Despite Time Magazine dubbing the song “8 min. 10 sec. of aural bliss,” some people don’t succumb to its charms. This may be due to different wiring, or simply because the sample size of the study wasn’t enough to draw a universal conclusion.

Relaxing Music 4

So if Weightless just isn’t doing it for you, try one of these other relaxing songs that were included in the study. There’s bound to be one that can soothe and calm those wrecked nerves of yours Enter Deep Relaxation With Dark Atmospheric Ambient & Drone Sounds [Sound Sunday] Enter Deep Relaxation With Dark Atmospheric Ambient & Drone Sounds [Sound Sunday] Drown out the noise and allow your mind to sink into itself with this edition of music you can download for free, aka Sound Sunday. Read More . The following are the remaining nine songs of the Top 10, with Marcuni Union’s Weightless coming in at Number 1. Most of these will be available to listen to on Spotify (see our write-up Music Streaming With Spotify: What You Get For Free Music Streaming With Spotify: What You Get For Free The long awaited streaming music service, Spotify landed in the U.S. last week. Unlike other streaming services, however, Spotify offers an ad-supported free option, which makes millions of albums and songs available to you through... Read More ) or Apple Music (see our write-up Getting Started With Apple Music — What You Need to Know Getting Started With Apple Music — What You Need to Know After the purchase of Beats last year, Apple has finally unleashed its streaming music service upon the world. Read More ).

2. Airstream – Electra

Sit back and alleviate your mind with Airstream’s 6 minutes of perfect chillout. Some viewers suggest playing the music at 0.5 speed (Settings > Speed > 0.5) for added meditative qualities, though there’s a lot to be said for listening at 2x speed.

Listen on YouTube or Spotify.

3. DJ Shah – Mellomaniac (Chill Out Mix)

This tune from DJ Shah’s Chill Out Mix appeared in Vsauce’s most relaxing music playlist. Unfortunately, the beat is slightly faster than most people’s resting heart-rate, so you’re unlikely to experience entrainment. However, you’ll almost certainly sink deep into your mattress.

Listen on YouTube or Spotify.

4. Enya – Watermark

Enjoyed by almost 20 million listeners on YouTube alone, Enya truly managed to strike a chord with this release. As YouTube user MissDistarr60 put it: “We can live tens of thousands of miles apart, yet this music has the same affect on each and every one of us.  It touches the emotions that we all share.”

Listen on YouTube or Spotify.

5. Coldplay – Strawberry Swing

In terms of music videos, they don’t come much more entertaining than this one. Yet on top of this, the soft instrumentals and whispered vocals massage your nerves, and (surprisingly for this band) lift your mood like few other songs out there. Good work, Coldplay.

Listen on YouTube or Spotify.

6. Barcelona – Please Don’t Go

This truly powerful song, for some, serves more to churn the emotions than to act as a relaxant. But its steady, placid chords and poignant sting instrumentals add elements that are sure to evoke either tears of sadness, or previously unknown depths of sleep.

Listen on YouTube.

7. All Saints – Pure Shores

A strange addition to the list, but nonetheless, Pure Shores does indeed offer a chillout vibe that you may previously have overlooked. Turn the lights out, insert your earphones, and hear it for yourself. Just don’t blame me if you end up dancing like it’s the year 2000 all over again.

Listen on YouTube or Spotify.

8. Adele- Someone Like You

Few need an introduction to Adele’s iconic Someone Like You. Viewed by well over 500 million people on YouTube, it’s a song that the artist can live off for the remainder of her life. Yet it’s not necessarily the incredible vocals or touching lyrics that are to thank for its ubiquity; it’s science.

As reported in the Wall Street JournalSomeone Like You is “sprinkled with ornamental notes similar to appoggiaturas”, which build tension in the audience and illicit strong emotional responses.

Listen on YouTube or Spotify.

9. Mozart – Canzonetta Sull’aria

The only classical song in the list, Mozart’s Canzonetta Sull’aria is recognizable to many due to its appearance in The Shawshank Redemption. Originally from the opera Marriage of Figaro, it’s sure to add a beautiful end to any stressful period.

Listen on YouTube or Spotify.

10. Cafe Del Mar – We Can Fly

Imagine you’re sat on a beach as the wistful instrumentals of We Can Fly jet you off to some far-flung destination. Reminiscent of bygone travel shows, Cafe Del Mar have perfected the feel of some much-needed downtime with this one.

Listen on YouTube.

Which Songs Help You Relax?

Of course, there are plenty of other songs that are as equally relaxing as some of those in the study. These will usually incorporate some, or all, of the calming features that were identified in Weightless. Here are a few more to add to your list:

So if you’re looking for calming ways to destress your mind 10 Calming Apps to Destress & Clear Your Mind 10 Calming Apps to Destress & Clear Your Mind You are not alone if you have you ever felt stuck in your thoughts? Like you're trudging and not able to make any headway. Calming, thought-organizing apps can rescue the mind. Read More , or easy ways to fall asleep faster 3 Relaxation Techniques to Help You Sleep Better 3 Relaxation Techniques to Help You Sleep Better Sometimes it takes too long to fall asleep. Technology can help us sleep better with some help from better sleep habits. Try these suggestions to shut off your brain. Read More , these songs will be a welcome addition to your repertoire. It’s hopefully a better alternative than using white noise for serenity 3 White Noise Apps To Help You Sleep, Concentrate & Relax 3 White Noise Apps To Help You Sleep, Concentrate & Relax If you're trying to sleep or work and an incessant background noise won't let up, these apps will help. Read More .

Which songs have a tranquilizing effect on you? And what do you think it is that makes them so effective at reducing your anxiety?

Image Credits: laying on the bench by Marjan Apostolovic via Shutterstock

  1. David
    December 5, 2016 at 8:40 am

    The album "And their refinement of the decline" by Stars of the lid is extraordinarily good. :-) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=et_lDyRymrw

  2. Karan Bahadur Shah
    December 2, 2016 at 10:25 am

    There's Band of Horses as well.

  3. Nika
    November 17, 2016 at 8:56 am
  4. Nikki
    November 7, 2016 at 2:41 am

    Ordinary Love - Sade
    or most anything by Sade
    Also, Drowndeep by Maxwell....or check out his album Embrya

  5. Pamela
    November 3, 2016 at 8:04 pm

    Elevator Beat - Nancy Wilson

  6. SuperCalm123
    October 21, 2016 at 3:23 pm

    Oh, and Space Oddity is really great.

    • Rob Nightingale
      October 30, 2016 at 12:57 pm

      I second that!

  7. SuperCalm123
    October 21, 2016 at 3:21 pm

    Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds is good too. Well, at least for me it is.

  8. Simon Lindgaard
    October 4, 2016 at 4:47 am

    Dude, great list.. except you forgot all the good songs. I guess it just goes to show what one can throw up on a blog and call it a website. Ignorance yay!

    By the way, check out Ishome. All her songs are amazing, but I would recommend Adam, Kent Tavr and Earth.

    • Rob Nightingale
      October 7, 2016 at 5:35 pm

      I didn't create the list. Science did.

  9. Kevin Sullivan
    August 26, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    Check out the album "Young Mountain" by This Will Destroy You. It is easily the most relaxing album front to back that I've ever heard. Any album of theirs is great, but start there.

    • Rob Nightingale
      October 7, 2016 at 5:36 pm

      I'll give it a listen, thanks Kevin!

  10. EllieC
    August 23, 2016 at 4:06 pm

    If I Be Wrong by Wolf Larsen is one of the most calming songs ever. Very peaceful melody, slow and soft- plus his voice is very soothing. The message of the song itself also embraces peace of mind and "letting go"

    • Rob Nightingale
      October 7, 2016 at 5:36 pm

      Good shout!

    • Gaurav
      October 25, 2016 at 7:02 pm

      Loved it. She sings beautifully :)

  11. Lynn
    August 20, 2016 at 6:23 pm

    Gabriella Quevedo picking Hotel California, Dream On or Goodbye Blue Sky.

    • Rob Nightingale
      August 21, 2016 at 4:00 pm

      Goodbye Blue Sky is a very good call!

  12. Subhashini Singh
    August 4, 2016 at 12:03 am

    alina baraz-fantasy cannot be missed here

    • Rob Nightingale
      August 21, 2016 at 4:01 pm

      Will give it a listen! Thanks :)

  13. Bravo Mike
    June 7, 2016 at 5:19 am

    The Sextet from Cloud Atlas

    • Rob Nightingale
      July 13, 2016 at 2:22 pm

      Going to listen tonight!

  14. tj
    May 27, 2016 at 1:30 am

    check out catherine wheel -the nude or fripp - they have bunch of relaxing songs. kate bush -hello earth, under ice, Vangelis bladerunner love theme, enya the celts, loreena mckennitt

    • Rob Nightingale
      July 13, 2016 at 2:23 pm

      Will do, thanks!

  15. Tom D
    May 19, 2016 at 4:22 pm

    Great article, thanks for writing it and the recommendations. A few here to add to my collection. I have a few that do the trick for me:

    1. E.S. Posthumus
    2. Andreas Vollenweider, especially White Winds
    3. The soundtracks to The Thin Red Line (one of my favorite), Gladiator and The Pacific
    4. The music of Ludwig Senfl

    Thanks again

    • Rob Nightingale
      July 13, 2016 at 2:23 pm

      Thanks a lot for the recommendations, Tom!

  16. Danny
    May 14, 2016 at 3:10 am

    Big Eyes,
    Blue velvet, and
    Carmen by Lana del Rey are all relaxing to me. Also Eyes on fire by blue foundation??

    • Rob Nightingale
      May 18, 2016 at 10:14 am

      Kudos for Lana del Rey!

  17. Pritam
    May 3, 2016 at 6:03 pm

    "Waking Up" by "Explosions In The Sky" is a really soothing piece guitar music you guys can try, it was also featured in the film "Lone Survivor".
    https://soundcloud.com/sama-khan-1/waking-up-explosion-in-the-sky

    • Rob Nightingale
      May 18, 2016 at 10:14 am

      Great share, thanks Pritam!

  18. Harsh
    March 17, 2016 at 9:21 am

    mind are not relax in your music please get new idea?

    • Rob Nightingale
      March 17, 2016 at 2:50 pm

      Did you try the recommendations in the comments?

  19. Jenni
    March 9, 2016 at 10:24 am

    Check out The Japanese House

    • Rob Nightingale
      March 17, 2016 at 2:50 pm

      Will do!

  20. Rock
    February 29, 2016 at 5:25 pm

    ..comfortably numb .. must listen most relaxibg song evr

    • Rob Nightingale
      March 3, 2016 at 11:34 am

      Agreed!

  21. Squalle
    November 30, 2015 at 9:11 am

    Hatchet To The Head by Cannibal Corpse!

    • Rob Nightingale
      December 2, 2015 at 12:07 pm

      Listening soon!

  22. Rodrigo Silva Barretos
    September 1, 2015 at 5:09 am

    Rameses B definitely helps me relax

    • Rob Nightingale
      September 6, 2015 at 6:11 pm

      I'll give it a listen!

  23. dinika saxena
    August 27, 2015 at 6:04 pm

    This is a really great compilation. Thanks for such great suggestions.

    Piano compositions almost always work wonders for me.
    I found this one especially useful - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ktIAKehWOX8.

    Even Ed Shereen's songs (like One, A-team, Kiss me, Photograph) are great.

    • Rob Nightingale
      September 6, 2015 at 6:11 pm

      Thank you! :)

  24. Barrington Kenilworth IV
    August 26, 2015 at 5:11 pm

    For me, it's "Judy Don't You Worry" by Sarah Cracknell from the CD "Kelly's Locker"... in fact, the whole CD relaxes me and makes me feel better.

    • Rob Nightingale
      August 27, 2015 at 12:30 pm

      I'm adding this to my "to listen" list, that's growing very long due to this article ;)

  25. Eva Harr
    August 26, 2015 at 4:36 am

    This whole comment section has some great suggestions which I'm now off to explore on YouTube. Thanks for the article, Rob. You brought us together with music. Works every time!!

    • Rob Nightingale
      August 27, 2015 at 12:30 pm

      Thank you, Eva!

  26. Richard Flurey
    August 25, 2015 at 10:36 pm

    One of my favourite chill-out tracks is 'I remember' by DeadMau5, feels like the tempo is just right, gentle beats, soft airy female vocals and great reverberation effect. It is certainly far better than the All Saints and Adele choices in this so called top 10 proven by science list.

    • Rob Nightingale
      August 27, 2015 at 12:31 pm

      I found Adele to be a strange choice here. It has an emotion aspect to it, but I wouldn't necessarily call it 'relaxing'.

  27. Mike H
    August 25, 2015 at 6:19 pm

    I get the idea that these songs are supposed be 'chill out' and relaxing.

    What if you don't like any of the music, can it then be considered relaxing?

    All these songs are the musical equivalent of choking to death on incense smoke while being massaged by a beardy man radiating BO, dressed in a tie-dyed shirt and force-feeding you tofu and seaweed.

    • Eva Harr
      August 25, 2015 at 11:27 pm

      Finding music that speaks to your soul while relaxing you, is a very personal journey. These are just suggestions, so start exploring YouTube and good luck.

  28. Philip Davies
    August 25, 2015 at 9:55 am

    Not so much a song, but an album. Mike Oldfield - Tubular Bells. A classic in any ones eyes.

    • Rob Nightingale
      August 27, 2015 at 12:31 pm

      All I can say to this suggestion is, YES

  29. Joann McCourt
    August 25, 2015 at 2:49 am

    The Grateful Dead. 'Nuff said.

    • Rob Nightingale
      August 25, 2015 at 9:51 am

      Debatable ;)

      • Joann McCourt
        August 25, 2015 at 7:08 pm

        To each his own.

  30. Eva Harr
    August 24, 2015 at 11:35 pm

    Bron-Yr-Aur by Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelins album 'Physical Graffiti'. A lovely acoustic guitar piece, it's only 2 minutes, but put it on a loop and it's wonderful.

    • Rob Nightingale
      August 25, 2015 at 9:51 am

      I forgot about this song for years! Thanks for reminding me!

  31. Philip Davies
    August 24, 2015 at 10:07 pm

    Fleetwood Mac - Albatross, the perfect relaxation b4 going to sleep

    • Rob Nightingale
      August 25, 2015 at 9:50 am

      I'll give it a try!

    • Glen LeBarr
      August 25, 2015 at 9:56 am

      great one...here's a great cover by Aussie guitarist Dave Hole https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=erGO1rsEVOI

      • Rob Nightingale
        August 27, 2015 at 12:31 pm

        That's amazing!

    • Eva Harr
      August 25, 2015 at 10:50 pm

      You're welcome Rob. Google the name and see the beautiful cabin I Wales which inspired Jimmy to write the tune. Also, listen to the acoustic version of White Summer; another one of his gentle masterpieces. Too many people think that Jimmy was all about nothing but power chords, but his music encompasses a lot of folk, country & blues too. Listen to 'Going to California' 'Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp' & 'That's The Way' - all from the 1975 Earl's Court acoustic set and see what I mean. It's on YouTube.

  32. DonGateley
    August 24, 2015 at 7:19 pm

    I'd add Erik Satie - Gymnopédie No.1

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-Xm7s9eGxU

    • Barrington Kenilworth IV
      August 26, 2015 at 5:12 pm

      DonGeteley - me too! Satie is very meditative and relaxing.

  33. Michael Raimondi
    August 24, 2015 at 2:09 pm

    Claire De Lune and Arabesque by Debussy. Arabesque was featured at the end of one of the Oceans movies as the boys hang out in front of the Bellagio. All ambient sound is cut, and just that song plays. Love that scene.

    • Rob Nightingale
      August 25, 2015 at 9:50 am

      To be honest, almost anything by Debussy could be on this list.

  34. Read and Share
    August 24, 2015 at 12:39 am

    To me, these selections (Weightless, etc.) are more droning than relaxing. What works for me? A simple gurgling brook or a gentle wind passing through a pine forest. Sure, we can't all access a brook or a pine forest at a moment's notice, but then, I'd pick the sound of silence over a synthesizer any day. Thank you.

    • Bart Boryczko
      August 24, 2015 at 9:23 pm

      With the right app, you could. Try the White Noise app (for Android) and see if you find any sounds you like.

    • Rob Nightingale
      August 25, 2015 at 9:50 am

      True. As mentioned in the article, there are several apps that can provide these ambient sounds, if that's what your looking for. For iOS, I use NatureSounds.

      • Eva Harr
        August 26, 2015 at 4:45 am

        Gregorian chanting is also relaxing. Especially if you use quality headphones, or have a Bose sound setup, where you can feel the low tones vibrating you to your core. It's like a full body massage with musical overtones.

        • Rob Nightingale
          August 27, 2015 at 12:32 pm

          I find some buddhist chants to be incredble. Especially when intertwined with som quality percussion.

  35. Howard Blair
    August 22, 2015 at 9:02 pm

    I agree. Which is why I can't stand some kinds of heavy metal (Metallica, Megadeth, they're just depressing) and rap (Eminem, who can't seem to get over the fact that he chose his career over his family, the whiny "git"; Jay-Z, who thinks he's the HOVA [Jehova] of rap.)

  36. Akash Devkate
    August 20, 2015 at 5:19 pm

    Fur Elise by Beethoven, Bittersweet symphony by the verve ,tera chehra by adnan sami etc :)

    • Wm Brown
      August 20, 2015 at 10:17 pm

      Love "Für Elise" !

    • Rob Nightingale
      August 25, 2015 at 9:49 am

      Ah yes! One of the first songs I ever learned on piano :)

  37. Kevin Liske
    August 20, 2015 at 2:37 pm

    Pretty much any New Age or mellow ambient music of which there are beaucoup.

    • Rob Nightingale
      August 25, 2015 at 9:49 am

      Many of the more 'mediocre' songs in this industry sound too much alike for me to be able to appreciate properly. I think searching for the best in the genre is definitely worth the payoff.

  38. z9cajack
    August 20, 2015 at 12:49 pm

    six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello by Johann Sebastian Bach , especially the version performed by Yo-Yo Ma

    • Rob Nightingale
      August 25, 2015 at 9:48 am

      I second this!

      • Eva Harr
        August 25, 2015 at 10:57 pm

        Yo-Yo Ma is da Man! I love his rendition of 'The Swan'. I play it on my violin often. It's very beautiful & relaxing.

  39. Jeff Brown
    August 20, 2015 at 11:41 am

    Kashmir - Led Zeppelin

    • Rob Nightingale
      August 25, 2015 at 9:48 am

      I wouldn't rate it as one of the most relaxing songs ever. Definitely one of the best, though.

      • Eva Harr
        August 25, 2015 at 11:09 pm

        While it's not necessarily relaxing, it's probably the best song on all of the 9 Zep albums. It's another one of Jimmys creations using weird guitar tuning (DADGAD) to create mystic ambiance. I love everything about it: Jimmys' power chords & Jonesies' keyboards. Bonzos' drums - absolutely brilliant!

  40. Wm Brown
    August 20, 2015 at 10:36 am

    I especially like James Taylor. His concerts, playing in the background, combined with sex, are the best a guy can put on in the background to help with the seduction of a new girlfriend in bed! Trust me, I know this for a fact. He makes a girl think of nothing but love.

    • Rob Nightingale
      August 25, 2015 at 9:47 am

      haha. I'll take your word for that.

    • Eva Harr
      August 25, 2015 at 11:20 pm

      Haha! How about Ravelvs Bolero? It's 14 minutes & 23 seconds long, and it builds in volume and tension and increases in tempo as it approaches the end. With perfect timing, you'll finish at the same time as the music. It's perfect! ÷)

  41. Kay Fritz
    August 20, 2015 at 4:45 am

    Enya is always a safe bet when it comes to relaxing music for me.

    • Rob Nightingale
      August 25, 2015 at 9:47 am

      Very true!

  42. Ahmed Fawad
    August 19, 2015 at 9:25 pm

    Nothing relaxes me more than silent hill 1 theme.

  43. Ahmed Fawad
    August 19, 2015 at 9:19 pm

    Beethoven!

  44. Glen LeBarr
    August 19, 2015 at 7:38 pm

    Jeff Beck - Where Were You
    Yes - Awaken

    • Rob Nightingale
      August 25, 2015 at 9:47 am

      I've never heard either of these. I'll give them a listen!

      • Eva Harr
        August 26, 2015 at 4:31 am

        Jeff Beck was in the Yardbirds with Jimmy Page, and they have collaborated on several works. Try 'Becks Bolero' which they absolutely shine on; both of them. It's on the album 'Truth' by Jeff. Rod Stewart sings on it, and the whole thing is just wonderful.

  45. fcd76218
    August 19, 2015 at 6:52 pm

    Stranger on the Shore by Acker Bilk
    The Theme from the Godfather
    The Theme from Franco Zefirelli's Romeo and Juliet

    • Rob Nightingale
      August 25, 2015 at 9:46 am

      The theme from The Godfather is an amazing call!

      • Eva Harr
        August 26, 2015 at 5:11 am

        And, speaking of wind, just for a goof, search YouTube for 'Loz's Magnificent 7-Tone Fart Symphony'. Hilarious!

    • Eva Harr
      August 26, 2015 at 5:02 am

      Every time I hear Stranger on the Shore, I get whole-body shivers when the clarinet hits that L-O-W note at the beginning. It amazes me that a clarinet can sound like two entirely different woodwinds in the upper & lower registers. Oh! That reminds me: Mozarts Serenade for (13) Winds. Hypnotic...

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