Music Taught Me to Love

Posted by Annie on January 3, 2011

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!

Annie x

Last modified on July 13, 2011

Filed under: Annie, Life Lessons of Music3 Comments »

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3 Responses to “Music Taught Me to Love”

  1. Jenzi Says:

    Hi Annie — OMG, thanks SO much for posting this!! I am all about the amazing powers of music to help people heal…so much so that I’ve developed a class on this for community education audiences. I tell the folks who come to my classes just what you and your friend heard on this programme, about how our brains respond to music (in user-friendly terms, you don’t have to have a background in brain science to understand!), and I think I learn as much from the students as they do from me, when they share their stories about how deeply music has touched them. I actually just taught a session last evening at a residence for women recovering from addiction and mental illness…and one of the songs we listened to, that MANY of the participants and myself agreed we love to pieces was ‘Stairway to Heaven’! Particularly appropriate as the original inspiration for me to create this class was, of course, Led Zeppelin’s music. Like you, I’ve always felt something uniquely incredible listening to Zep (and to other music I love), and I wanted to understand better why that was…then once I did, I wanted to share that knowledge with other people and help them to see what music can do for us.
    I hope this makes sense — it’s hard to put all this into words! Your post just hit the nail on the head about music, and I had to respond. Thanks again and Happy New Year!

  2. Annie Says:

    Happy New Year to you as well Jenzi! I’m so happy to hear from you on this topic. It’s one of the things I am most interested in collecting, the stories of how music has affected people for good. It was profound in my life, and just like you, it was Led Zeppelin that did it for me, more specifically, listening to Jimmy play. I’d be thrilled to pieces if you wanted to explore this further and maybe do a charity project with MIM. Everything you said makes sense, but I agree, it is hard to put into words. It does help others so much if we can though. It’s not just a fan crush that made me respond to Jimmy as people often assume from my enthusiasm. I never even knew his name or saw his face until a number of years after I became so attached to his music, so I know it’s more than a simple fan thing. It’s really lovely to hear about your work. Much love to you and to the ladies with whom you are working. Do keep in touch if you’d like to work on a project with me.


  3. Jenzi Says:

    Hi Annie — Awwww, this is so sweet, thanks so much! I would love to do some kind of project on this theme to help MIM….just not sure what it could be. That, and I have so many other things going on that I don’t want to promise more than I can realistically do. But in whatever capacity I can work with you on this, I’d be happy to! So…let’s think about this…:)
    Thanks again for ALL you do! Jenzi