Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence (song)

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"Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence"
Dream Theater - Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence.jpg
Song by Dream Theater
from the album Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence
Released 2002
Genre Progressive metal, progressive rock[1]
Length 42:00
Label Elektra Records
Composer(s) John Petrucci, John Myung, Jordan Rudess, Mike Portnoy
Lyricist(s) John Petrucci and Mike Portnoy
Producer(s) Mike Portnoy and John Petrucci
Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence track listing
"Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence"

"Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence" is the sixth song and title track on the album of the same name, written and performed by progressive metal/rock band Dream Theater. Though the song is essentially broken up into eight movements on separate tracks, the song itself is 42-minutes and takes up the entire second CD of the album. The genesis of the song came when Dream Theater keyboardist Jordan Rudess wrote what would become the "Overture" section of "Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence", and the band took some different melodies and ideas contained within it and expanded them into chapters of the complete piece. The song explores the stories of six individuals suffering from various mental illnesses.[2] Particularly represented are bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, autism, post-partum depression, and dissociative identity disorder.

The song contains influences of the classical, metal, folk and progressive genres and weaves through many time signatures, including 4/4, 5/4, 6/8, and 7/8. The song is the longest that Dream Theater has recorded. In order to ease the scrolling through the song, Mike Portnoy gave each movement their own track, splitting the song into eight tracks.[3]

The song was played in its entirety on Score, with the "Octavarium Orchestra" playing "Overture" and backing for the rest of the piece, except for "The Test That Stumped Them All".


  • I. "Overture" – 6:50 (Instrumental)
  • II. "About to Crash" – 5:50 (Petrucci)
  • III. "War Inside My Head" – 2:08 (Portnoy)
  • IV. "The Test That Stumped Them All" – 5:03 (Portnoy)
  • V. "Goodnight Kiss" – 6:17 (Portnoy)
  • VI. "Solitary Shell" – 5:47 (Petrucci)
  • VII. "About to Crash (Reprise)" – 4:04 (Petrucci)
  • VIII. "Losing Time/Grand Finale" – 5:59 (Petrucci)

Song analysis[edit]

The lyrics of the song never stay on one particular subject, instead describing each of the six people (referred to as the Six Degrees). Each of these people suffer from a different mental disability, and all six disabilities are described in the lyrics. The first movement, Overture, is an instrumental, which means it doesn't describe any of these disabilities, and the lyrics for the seventh movement, About To Crash (Reprise), describe the same person from the second movement, About to Crash, but from a different point of view (see analysis below). Though there are many Time signature changes in the song, most of the themes are in 7/4 (About to Crash, Solitary Shell), 13/8 (The Test that Stumped Them All), 6/8 (Grand Finale) or common time.

I. Overture[edit]

This serves mainly as an introduction, encompassing the many musical themes which occur throughout the remaining movements.

II. About to Crash[edit]

The lyrics tell of a girl (Degree 1) who has one of the most well known of all mental illnesses: Bipolar disorder. With bipolarity, a patient suffers from manic episodes (e.g. "She can't stop pacing, she never felt so alive") alternating with depressive crashes (e.g. "Then one day, she woke up to find, the perfect girl, had lost her mind"). Bipolar mania often involves heightened energy, flight of ideas ("Her thoughts are racing, set on overdrive."). Manics will often work for hours on end to the point of exhaustion and will often neglect their other duties to attend to whatever goal they have set their minds on at the time. ("They're expecting her, but she's got work to do.")

Bipolar sufferers tend to get worse when the affliction is untreated, and her father/friend, presumably, has seen this ("He says I've never seen her get this bad").

The keyboard arrangement in the intro to this song can be related to the intro of the song "Biaxident" from the album Liquid Tension Experiment 2 released in 1999 by Liquid Tension Experiment, a Dream Theater side-project.

III. War Inside My Head[edit]

This movement tells the story of someone (Degree 2) who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, as some soldiers do after war. The lyrics show he served in Vietnam ("napalm showers"). The chorus reveals he has flashbacks ("Hearing voices from miles away... Waging a war inside my head"), experiencing instances where he believes that he is still in Vietnam. The second verse implies that he may believe he will have the condition indefinitely ("Trading innocence for permanent psychotic hell"). During the final chorus, it is revealed that his anxiety has become more pronounced ("Tasting danger with each word I say").

IV. The Test That Stumped Them All[edit]

This patient (Degree 3) is suffering from schizophrenia ("He lives in a world of fiction"). Schizophrenics suffer from a variety of symptoms that are touched on in the lyrics here. Obvious ones include references to delusions and the fact that he "lives in a world of fiction". "Intro tape begins to roll...igniting sonic rage" refers to the fact that schizophrenics are prone to auditory hallucinations... especially command hallucinations that tell the person what to do - even to the point of killing someone or themselves ("To save him from himself"). However, there are references to drug abuse in this song (Random urine testing,/counseling and therapy."), so schizophrenia may only be part of the song.

Unfortunately, there is no "cure" for schizophrenia ("Counseling and therapy providing not a clue") and very little information on its cause (hence the name, "The Test That Stumped Them All"). There is, however, treatment with a variety of anti-psychotic medications ("Pills, red, pink and blue"). Decades ago, there used to be a prevalent method of treating the disorder with shock treatments and this is referenced by the "doctors" suggesting it in the song.

V. Goodnight Kiss[edit]

This is a piece about a mother (Degree 4) who has lost her child, in one form or another, and is suffering from post-partum depression ("Are you lonely without Mommy's love?" ... "I'm so lonely without Baby's love"). There is also evidence of the child having been hospitalized at some point, or perhaps died during child birth. The mother struggles between believing that the loss of her child is her fault ( ... "my tainted blood's still the same") or the doctors fault ("Those bastard doctors are gonna pay"). A heart monitor, and a baby crying can be heard in the later part of the song, suggesting a medical problem with the baby; the manic laughter of a doctor also suggests a recurring nightmare that the sufferer has. The lyrics also suggest the death of more than one child on separate occasions ("It's been five years to the day and my tainted blood's still the same")

VI. Solitary Shell[edit]

Referred to as Degree 5, this person most likely has Asperger syndrome[citation needed]. The lyric tells us that he started off developmentally normal ("He seemed no different from the rest" "He learned to walk and talk on time, but never cared much to be held"), however, he did withdraw from social contact (the title, "Solitary Shell", shows that he is quite reclusive). The lyrics end with a plea for social acceptance from a peer or relative ("When will he be let out of his solitary shell").

VII. About to Crash (Reprise)[edit]

This section carries on from where About to Crash left off. This time the song is sung from the sufferer's point of view and describes her going through another manic episode ("I'm invincible, despair will never find me"). She then makes the realization that she will come out soon only to have another depressive episode ("And when I fall out of the sky, who'll be standing by"). The lyrics here possibly show the bipolarity is getting better as sufferers tend to become more conscious of the syndrome when they start to feel more like themselves. Pieces from several other movements are included in this and could further describe the character's bipolar and confusion.

VIII. Losing Time[edit]

The last degree is a girl suffering from dissociative identity disorder, previously called Multiple Personality Disorder. The lyrics tell the listener that she does not have many friends ("She never wears makeup, But no-one would care if she did anyway"). This is probably caused by having her life split among multiple personalities. The results of which is her relative amnesia caused by her inability to keep track of her life among her multiple personalities ("She doesn't recall yesterday, faces seem twisted and strange"). However, this may also be a reference to Alzheimer's. This can be justified by the lines "She always wakes up, only to find she'd been miles away", a possible reference to Alzheimer's victims "wandering", leaving their families to wonder where they went. The "Losing Time" title refers to the fact that she isn't living parts of her life due to her dissociative identity disorder, which in turn implies that she is "losing time". The lyrics also reveal the darker side of dissociative identity disorder, in that those who suffer from this disorder often create alternate personalities in order to cope with severe emotional or physical trauma ("She learned to detach from herself, a behavior that kept her alive").

Grand Finale[edit]

In this section, the lyrics advise the listener to be more understanding of the people who carry these and similar afflictions, and to accept them as they should be. This section, in which the degrees described by the song are summed up in six lines, is similar to the "Intervals" section in the song "Octavarium":

Deception of fameDegree 3: The Test That Stumped Them All

Vengeance of warDegree 2: War Inside My Head

Lives torn apartDegree 4: Goodnight Kiss

Losing oneselfDegree 6: Losing Time

Spiraling downDegree 1: About To Crash (and Reprise)

Feeling the walls closing inDegree 5: Solitary Shell

The Grand Finale ends with a drum fill and gong while the final chord fades over the course of the last 1:45. The final chord is the same chord that starts "As I Am", the first song on the next album Train of Thought, which is a further example of Dream Theater's continuity between albums.



  1. ^
  2. ^ Patrick Salmon (2002-02-21). "Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence". The Daily of the University of Washington. Archived from the original on 2013-01-21. Retrieved November 14, 2014. 
  3. ^ Mike - MP.FAQ Archived April 28, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.

External links[edit]