Why music matters (whatever your age!)

on Friday, 01 March 2013. Posted in N21 Experts

 

Music Matters...even if you’re a Grown Up

 
Music is a language that everyone understands. How many times have you heard someone say, ‘I remember the first time I heard that song’, ‘I had a music teacher once who was a real stickler for that’ (usually practice), ‘I’ve always loved that band’, ‘I’ve had this tune in my head all day!’.  Music is innate to our culture, and we all have a relationship with it. It was integral to our educational experience as a child, and gave our imagination space to grow. As a teen, it defined our social position and medicated our moody steps into self definition. At university, music accompanied our first dates, long drives home and muddy adventures at festivals. Music matters, and yet, as soon as we grow up, it gets taken for granted; sidelined. We go about our busy lives with financial responsibilities, to-do lists, stress and anxiety and our musical selves, ironically, get tuned out. 

Music matters. It is not a luxury, but a necessity for a decent quality of life that doesn’t end when you open a bank account. It is not a pointless exercise, but a vital expressive tool that teaches innumerable transferrable skills, and is not just limited to those who ‘can’. Music is something that everyone can engage with; that everyone can ‘do’, even those who would class themselves as tone-deaf or beyond teaching. If my rhetoric hasn’t convinced you, here are some interesting morsels to consider.
 
The Best Brain Training

Music doesn’t just ‘go in one ear and out of the other’. Organised sound makes your brain light up in a unique way. 11 areas of the brain activate to interpret and experience music, making this activity the most stimulating of any performed by a person and exceptional in its ability to stimulate emotional response.

 

  

 
Music is Medicine  
 
The last 10 years has seen an upsurge in the research and publication of Music Therapy theories and papers. London is the proud host of 3 internationally recognised Music Therapy training schools, and this method of therapy is now widely used with patients with behavioural difficulties, mental illness or disability. Music is known to positively affect neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Tourettes and Autism and can reduce chronic pain by 30%. It is now common for therapists and even some doctors to recommend engaging with music as an additional treatment for Anxiety and Depression. Learning to sing can improve Asthmatic conditions, speech impediments and nervous dysfunction. Certain instrumental activities can also have positive effects on arthritis and hyper-mobility.
 
It’s all about waves 

 

 

 
Specific brain wave patterns are associated with certain emotional and cognitive outcomes. Matching music with brain waves can induce a particular state of mind or emotional response. Composers in the 16th century played with this idea, under the impression that the speed of a piece of music and timbre (quality and type of sound) could influence bodily ‘humors’. These experiments gave us great works such as Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto, and Vivaldi’s Seasons but also firmly established in western cultural memory the idea that Major keys are happy and Minor keys are sad. Even Justin Bieber sticks to this principle!
 
Cheeky fact: Did you know that the key of E flat Major has always been associated with boldness and confidence? Listen to Beethoven’s Erioca Symphony to psych yourself up for that interview.
 
Imagine dining in a restaurant where the menu gets more varied and exciting as you eat...The Social and Interpersonal benefits of engaging with music are numerous. You meet new people and have a reason to continue meeting them! No more awkward silences. You always have something to talk about. You learn something new. Music is a different language of dots and lines, shapes, sounds and odd Italian words, but it is something that you interpret with your body. Food doesn’t taste as good if you can’t see it or smell it. Similarly, a greater understanding of what you’re hearing infinitely increases your chance of enjoying it. Every piece of music is different, meaning that the menu options increase as your aural palate develops! The more you listen, the more you hear! Soon, you find yourself humming, ye gads, even singing! Full throated and confident. Or your fingers become accustomed to the rhythms and shapes of your music and your instrument. You start crafting sound, not just listening to it. You’re amazed that it has somehow become YOUR music and find that you’re hearing new things in pieces you’ve known for years.  You find yourself involved with a new community and can finally understand your kids’ and grand kids’ homework. Who knows, maybe they’ll even start practicing more now that you ‘get it’? 
 
Result? Happiness and Joy
 
Top tips for tuning in...

Read- Enter the world of music blogs and Twitter feeds. This is the BEST way of staying on top of what’s happening in music in London. My firm favourites are : 
•The Riot Ensemble – making brilliant music in a new way. http://riotensemble.com/category/blog/
•ForeSound Music- For the educational perspective and a fun take on making music. http://www.foresoundmusic.com/blog-and-news.html
•The London Music Blog- Grunge and Funk. http://londonmusicblog.co.uk/
 
There are plenty of great books available around the topic of music phsychology and general musicology. I recommend Musicophilia by internationally recognised Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Oliver Sacks. A gripping read and accounts of the odd ways in which music both affects and flows out of the mind. There are some additionally bizarre accounts of patients turned ‘Musicophiles’ by freak accidents. Other great musical reads are the First Nights series by Prof. T. Forrest Kelley. Each book explores and gives often hilarious accounts of the composition, staging and premiere of those great musical works that everyone knows.   
 
Pick up that dusty instrument- start a 1 to 1 or small group lesson. We offer bespoke classes for adults at ForeSound Music, but you really are spoilt for choice in N21. You should also consider joining a group. Whether it’s a Choir or a Drum group, get out there and make music. You might even make some friends!
Watch and Listen- Nothing beats a gig, attending a concert or going to the theatre. Explore what’s on in your local area and support those around you bold enough to make music. 
 
Have I convinced you yet? 

Music Matters. Be encouraged, and don’t give up on your musical brain just because you’re a grown up!

 

Celeste Richardson

Fore Sound Music

 

 

 

 

Music is a language that everyone understands. How many times have you heard someone say, 'I remember the first time I heard that song',  'I've had this tune in my head all day!'. Music is innate to our culture, and we all have a relationship with it. It was integral to our educational experience as a child, and gave our imagination space to grow.

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