I am not a scientist or academic. But I have always had the gut feeling that somehow listening to music is somehow therapeutic, that it might bring healing and even if it didn’t, it surely could bring pleasure. I have felt this no matter the genre or artist within a genre (well, OK, there is indeed some “bad” music out there, but I try to avoid those anyway…) whether it be John Adam’s Harmonium, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, Dvorak’s Slavic Dances, Mozart’s Requiem , Robert Johnson’s Crossroads, BB King’s Every Day I Have the Blues, The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, AC-DC Back in Black or Coldplay’s Viva La Vida….it doesn’t matter too much….music like this moves me.
Now there is a paper out in Nature Neuroscience documenting what happens in our minds and bodies when we listen to music we love. Wired Magazine ran a story on this here that included this great bit of information:
Because the scientists were combining methodologies (PET and fMRI) they were able to obtain an impressively precise portrait of music in the brain. The first thing they discovered (using ligand-based PET) is that music triggers the release of dopamine in both the dorsal and ventral striatum. This isn’t particularly surprising: these regions have long been associated with the response to pleasurable stimuli. It doesn’t matter if we’re having sex or snorting cocaine or listening to Kanye: These things fill us with bliss because they tickle these cells. Happiness begins here.
So, go put on your favorite tunes first before you pop a pill and relax and soak it up.
This research adds additional credence to the benefit of bringing music to places such as nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, hospitals and facilities and homes for the developmentally disabled. Music is cheap and risk-free therapy! Rock on!! (The fine print: Make sure to protect your hearing.)
Even if you can hear with your ears it is important to learn how to truly listen with all of your senses.
I lost all of my left side hearing as a result of craniotomy surgery because I was diagnosed with Superior Canal Dehiscence Syndrome (SCDS) a few years ago and have screaming tinnitus all the time and have been fitted with special “BICROS” hearing aids to help my right ear hear things going on to the left of me as well as take care of some minor high frequency loss on the right side. It has been an ongoing tweaking process with my audiologist to get the programming just right. I have hearing aids that have 4 programs for specific types of audio environments and they can listen and switch automatically to the appropriate program. Unfortunately, even with all of this technology, they are still a double-edged sword and at times go into feedback in response to some particular sound. There are days that I like them a lot and other days that I can’t stand them and I leave them on the shelf. I was quite depressed and frustrated with my hearing loss at first, but then I became more hopeful later as I accepted it as a new aspect of who I am. In addition, listening to the story of Evelyn Glennie, a deaf classical percussionist who lost her hearing when she was a child, inspired me a lot to really listen with all of my senses and I feel that today I am a better listener that I was when my ears were 100% functional. Besides Evelyn Glennie, another inspiring deaf musician for me is Hector Tirado, a deaf double bassist. I have included videos of both of these people below to help inspire you.
If you are losing your hearing, I recommend first of all having an exam by an ENT physician to evaluate you and then get a referral to some reputable audiologists. If you are also a musician, explain in advance that you are a musician and ask them if they have experience in working with issues unique to musicians.
The University of Florida has a very nice and compelling information page on their masters of music education program web page about all of the benefits of the study of music. It is a shame that music always seems to be the first thing to get cut when there are funding issues. I suppose it is because it is too hard to cut sports programs due to the built in large and vocal (since they get lots of practice screaming at games) advocacy group of fans and parents who find it distasteful to cut back on a “tradition” like football. The page is here.
OK, this song is done. If you have any friends who need relaxing music for their clinic, office or business, feel free to pass this piece on to them.
Here’s the story:
I recently became interested in making use of MIT’s “Open Courseware” program and I have been doing a little self-paced study of the Introduction to Music Composition course up there. (MIT Course Number 21M.065) After reading John Cage, Experimental Music and listening to some of James Tenny’s works, in the album, Postal Pieces, it inspired me to work on some new music in an entirely different way from what I had in the past, which either consisted of lyric writing and working things out on an acoustic guitar. One of the class assignments for the MIT course consisted of the following. Have you ever tried something like this. It’s amazing how tuned out both aurally and visually to much of what is going on around us every second in the world in which we live.
Choose one day (24 hours) between now and the next class. During this time, you should not intentionally initiate any sound producing event that involves music in some way. This means, no iPods, no CDs, no iTunes, no TV, no video games, etc. Please set your cell phone ringers to something generic. In other words, do not initiate passive music consumption.
At the end of the 24 hour period please write the following:
How this change affected your life? (1 page)
Observe the sounds around you. Observe how our sonic landscape is shaped. Is it possible to escape music in our contemporary environment? (1 page)
Feel free to address anything else that came up as you did this assignment.
Anyway, I created most of what I have in I Am Free on my iPad (that was after the MIT assignment above was complete!). It is essentially an exploration of a C major chord arpeggiated in various ways and on various instruments including a Chinese ciao flute, a Steinway grand piano, a synth pad called “Deep Meditation” and an orchestral bass section.
This piece has no other purpose than to explore different sounds and free you from your tension and stress, and help you let go and become free. So, sit back, relax and “Let go and let God”. This is a 9 minute, 20 second track. You can replay if you need more time to relax fully. Here’s the song: I Am Free
Dona Nobis Pacem is many hundreds of years old, it is a tune that originated from the Latin Mass and it is a liturgical canon taken from the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God), with Dona Nobis Pacem meaning “Give us Peace”.
I have played the ukulele for several years. It is a wonderful, sweet and unassuming instrument. The idea for doing this song took root in my mind as a counter response to all of the non-peace that the world seems to be filled with these days. And therefore, it is a simple, spacious melody given to the world which is so often busy, distracted and full of disagreement, disharmony, fighting and war. I also thought the idea of a ukulele playing together with a cello served as an excellent allegory to the dream of two opposite people, nations, cultures or religions living in peace and harmony together.
My arrangement of this is based upon the one provided by Mr. Ken Middleton (www.kenmiddleton.co.uk). I recorded the cello part using my Fender Marauder guitar running through a Roland GR-55 synthesizer into Logic Pro 9. The ukulele was recorded acoustically via an AKG condenser microphone through a Line6 UX2 audio interface also into Logic. Mixing assistance was provided by Mr. Michael Powers (www.michaelpowersmusic.com).
Click on the link below to listen to the recording. I hope you feel peace after listening to this song.