Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Advantages of Music (listening or playing)

14,200,000 results. 14,200,000! That’s how many results my computer pulled up when I searched for an answer to the question, “What are the advantages of listening to music?” Needless to say, I didn’t research all of them. Honestly, I got to page three and gave up. Some sites were totally irrelevant to my goal. Others were promoting styles of music with which we disagree (no, I don’t believe there can be Christian rap that is more effective than any other style of music in elevating my heart to worship God). And some sites were beyond my four-year-degree comprehension. But most of the relevant results upheld the theories many of us already have regarding music listening.
Let me enumerate just a handful of those theories:
1) Listening to music with a definite beat can sharpen concentration because the brainwave patterns are affected. Any change in the activity level of the brainwaves caused by music also enables the brain to shift speeds more readily.
2) Because of these alternations in brainwave activity, other bodily functions also are impacted. Autonomous nervous system functions like breathing patterns and heart rate can be altered with music. Slowing one’s heart rate and breathing typically allows a relaxation response to occur. Such a relaxing effect shows why music can play a literally vital role in promoting health and preventing the damages of stress.
3) Listening to music has been shown to improve a stroke patient’s recovery process. Finnish researchers determined that if stroke patients listened to music for a couple of hours a day, their verbal memory and focused attention recovered more readily and they had a more positive mood than patients who did not listen to anything or who listened to audio books. Listening to music also has been proven to reduce pain in situations involving acute, chronic or cancer pain. And we’re not talking small reductions. Some patients report up to a 50% reduction in pain.
4) Music therapy is also being used to treat depression. The soul has a strong response to music. Just think of David’s harp playing and the impact it had on soothing Saul’s soul (1 Sam. 16:23). Saul was refreshed and made well by the calming qualities of David’s music.
5) There is some discussion about the truth of the so-called “Mozart effect, which suggests that spatial reasoning and music have a neurological and psychological connection. Just by listening to certain styles of music, supposedly, IQ test scores and cognitive development increased in young people. Some critics claim this notion is a myth based on faulty testing, while others say further testing has proven its validity. Few studies disagree with the concept that spatial-temporal reasoning is enhanced when children start learning music – to read it or to play it.
6) It has been repeatedly proven that music helps in developing a better interaction within the brain. People who listen to music develop stronger interactions with their right and left sides of the brain, and that effect is even more obvious in individuals who play a musical instrument. One writer (and musician) reported:
A skilled and trained musician actually has a larger brain with more enhanced neural pathways as compared to a non-musician. A professional musician’s auditory cortex contains 130 percent more gray matter than that of non-musicians (Hotz, par. 5). This would suggest that exercise of the auditory area, as induced by the necessary rigorous and regular music practice for a professional musician, increases its growth. Musicians who began study early in life also appear to have an especially enhanced corpus callosum, or neural bridge, between the brain’s hemispheres. In fact it is up to 15 percent larger. (Hotz. Par. 5). This phenomenon is further exemplified by the findings that musicians process music with both ears, and therefore both hemispheres, while non-musicians process music with only their right ear (Mitchell, par. 3).[1]
And the list could easily go on three or four more pages with this discussion of the physiological, emotional, mental, and psychological effects that music has on an individual. Suffice it to say that increasing time listening to carefully chosen music can have numerous positive effects on every member of your family. We encourage you to play music when your children come down to breakfast. Get them started with a positive outlook and energized physiological response for the day. Recognize that children can concentrate better, at times, with music playing in the background while they are doing their schoolwork. (I still struggle with this concept because I need complete silence to concentrate on anything at my age, but I’m realizing that I’m getting old…Sigh.) Have quiet background music playing when you eat supper. And you can even let your young ones listen to music at bedtime to soothe their hearts to sleep. There are advantages the whole day long in listening to quality music. (Another blog will follow soon, Lord willing, for those of you who are asking, “What is quality music?” I’ll let you live in suspense until then. :))

[1]“Music and the Brain,” Maria Ramey, www.flutecorner.com, cited December 1, 2009.

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