A musician friend of mine rang me this morning very excited about a programme he was watching about music. He thought I might find it interesting. Tuning in, I found some music professors having a chat. One of them held the illustrious title, “Professor of Cultural Musicology.” Geeze, fancy stuff! Not something I would ordinarily watch, but just a few sentences later I was hooked when I heard one of them say that music produces very strong responses in us and can have physical as well as deep emotional affects relating to our core needs. It is not all just a bit of fun or purely entertaining.
The programme meandered through various scientific experiments which were interesting. Why do babies from all over the world respond to the singing of a lullaby no matter what language is being used to sing it, or even if singing is absent? Patients with advanced dementia recognise and sing songs that mean a lot to them, and music can even help people to communicate who have lost the ability to speak due to brain injury – they can sing sentences that they cannot speak. Apparently music has a measurable effect on the brains of musicians as well. The areas of their brains where music is processed are noticeably larger and thicker than in non-musicians. Even the universe makes music. Fifty-seven octaves lower than we can hear, you find the vibration of a black hole resonates a B flat when raised to our hearing level. And some believe that a string is found at the centre of all matter that vibrates as the string of a guitar.
Amazing stuff, but by far the segment I found most meaningful was the effect music had on children. Not only does it help them learn things like maths and syntax better, but it helps them interact socially. The celebrated pianist Daniel Barenboim supports music kindergartens, where he has observed that when children are exposed to music (simply through listening not playing an instrument), they learn discipline, sharing and love. Love? They learned to feel love and express love to others because of exposure to music? That struck me forcefully. I don’t have any fancy Professor of Musicology title, but I don’t need one to know that is certainly true because this is my experience of music, that it actually taught me to love. I have never heard anyone confirm this is real, so since it is my experience, it was great to hear. By studying the children, and audience reactions to music, it is seen that music creates unity, and is able to connect you to yourself and others.
Experiencing music in this way is life changing when you have no role models or loving guidance to help you process emotions and teach you how to relate to the world at large. I shut myself off and wouldn’t allow anything to reach me because I feared it would bring more pain. But one day I heard music that changed all that. I had no idea why, but suddenly I felt connected to something, drawn, and the more I listened, the more connected I felt – first to the music, then to the musician, then to myself, and then to others. Those stages of broadening connections were a healing and learning process for me that was real. The musician was able to break through all the barriers I had built around myself, and here was a group of scientists telling me so.
This is how music saved my life. It can sound very ‘fan-like’ and silly to some when you say that, but it is real and powerful. Much of the recovery progress I have made relates back to this experience, and I am forever grateful to the musician that unlocked my prison and helped me take the first tentative steps out. I think perhaps a lot of music fans share this experience, just to differing degrees. Anyone else have similar experiences to share? How was music life-changing to you? A big way? Just a little? I’d love to hear. I’m still thinking all this through. I’m really stunned at what I heard. Music is everywhere, and it lies at the core of life; connected to love. I always knew it!