Why Make Tracks? - The Benefits of Music.
“If music be the food of Love, Play On!”
(Orsino in ‘Twelfth Night’ by William Shakespeare)
If that isn’t reason enough, I don’t know what is!
Music may not be the food of love for everyone , but it DOES release the same chemicals in your body as love, sex and chocolate!
Music and Me.
Music has been a large part of my life since birth. My grandmother played syncopated piano and loved to entertain. Gran was the local equivalent of a USO show during WWII.
Her rendition of ‘Oh Johnny Oh!’ was said to raise eyebrows!
My Mum is convinced that she is tone deaf and can’t hold a note, but she filled our world with music from all genres and nations. Having lacked experience of ‘high culture’ in her childhood, Mum made special efforts to take us to classical recitals for kids, pop concerts and even an opera!
I was encouraged to learn instruments and made it to grade 2 on piano and clarinet, but I was pitifully low on will-power and discipline. It didn’t take long for my efforts to wane. It continues to be one of my greatest regrets in adult life that I cannot play the basics of a song or read music.(Don’t worry, I’ve not given up trying to correct this!) I was blessed with the gift of a good voice and natural tone - and I sang in school choirs, duets and school musical productions.
Sadly, I stopped singing for a long time through my University years and early careers, just as reality talent shows were on the rise. Anyone trying to compliment your voice would default to “Ohhh! You should go on XYZ TV show”. Personally I’d have rather chewed glass! I didn’t want to jump through genre hoops. I didn’t want to have to spin a tale about my Granny’s eye hanging out in order to win the popular vote. I’ll admit it - I didn’t want to be the small fish in a big talent pond. My self-esteem just wasn’t up to it!
However, after a long, slow build up of depression, my aunty encouraged me to go to an open-mic night. Her words to me were “It’ll cheer you up”, and she wasn’t wrong! The venue was open enough to accept people performing to backing tracks and I ended up singing three songs on the first night. After that the bar owner asked if I would perform a weekly opening set on Saturday nights. Eventually, I built up a singing business that allowed me to leave my day job!
There is truly nothing better than being paid to do something you love, that you know is making people happy. I perform in a huge variety of genres, and on backing tracks when needed, to earn a living. www.lucysingsweddings.com I perform jazz with live musicians (for much, much less pay) to satisfy my own creative needs. www.lucylockwoodjazz.com
In order to stay current for my function work, and to educate myself for my personal creativity, I make sure to listen to a wide variety of genres and styles. I love curating playlists for particular family members, or occasions. So naturally, when I started thinking about this blog, I knew that music had to be involved. It’s not just for my benefit - I firmly believe that music can be a force for good in everyone’s life - and there’s plenty of research to back up my belief.
MENTAL AND EMOTIONAL HEALTH BENEFITS OF MUSIC.
Studies by the Sidney De Haan Research Centre have found that choral singers rated their satisfaction with life higher than the general public More recent studies in Norway found that nursing home employees perceived singing to have benefits for their residents, such as reducing uneasiness, improved sleep, increased comfort, well-being, and joy.
Like arts and crafts, music making is a socially flexible activity. You can play or sing alone, in duet, or in bands, orchestras and choirs. This means that you can tailor your participation to your changing social comfort, capability and needs. In addition to that, there's the palpable sense of community and connection that we get in a dancing crowd or at a gig. We use music in our rituals and celebrations - we connect without words.
Music is an inclusive art form - everyone can make sound with their voice or their body.
It's free, and can be tailored to your circumstances and experience. All voices are valid. Rhythm and feel are instinctive. They can be shared and understood without privilege, education or even language.
Performance of any type increases confidence, while learning and memorising chords, notes or words improves memory and cognitive function. We can see the same factors of Csikszentmihalyi ’s ‘FLOW’ that arts and crafts provide. ‘Challenge-Skill balance’, ‘Clarity of Goals’ and ‘Immediate and Unambiguous Feedback’ can all be quickly attained through practise and performance of music. As any jazzer who has been ‘lost in the groove’ will tell you, given enough practise, you can transform time and escape self-consciousness too! Once again, in music as in art, we find ‘Autotelic Experiences’ for our satisfaction alone. This is a great safeguard against basing your self-esteem upon the external locus of other peoples opinions.
Accomplishing musical feats can greatly enhance our self-esteem, which is a real boon for those suffering from anxiety or depression. Controlling our breath enough to play or sing a continuous note can have a calming effect for those with stress. It’s similar to mindful or meditative breathing!
In the same way artists can use their art to process painful life experiences, so too can musicians and vocalists. When we interpret music, we feed into it our own experiences and emotions. We can attempt to empathise with, and reflect, the emotions that a composer explicitly tried to express in a piece. We can layer our own emotions alongside those of the author to enhance it. We can even hi-jack a song, using it as a conduit for our own, entirely different message and meaning. In this sense music is a powerful, cathartic, therapeutic tool.
Music is linked to improved cognitive function at all ages. In her book ‘The Genius of Natural Childhood’, Sally Goddard Blythe writes that “Song is a special type of speech. Lullabies, songs and rhymes of every culture carry the 'signature' melodies and inflections of a mother tongue, preparing a child's ear, voice and brain for language.”. Further-more, the reaction in babies is even greater when the song is ‘live’ from a parent rather than from a recording. "Singing along with a parent is for the development of reciprocal communication."
PHYSICAL HEALTH BENEFITS OF MUSIC.
Singing requires breath control, giving the lungs a good work out, and activates the diaphragm, which can tone abdominal and intercostal muscles. Enunciating words works our facial muscles - singing can actually make you look better! Ever noticed what great arms drummers have?! Breathing during singing stimulates circulation, along with the gentle movement that emerges naturally when keeping rhythm and expressing emotion through body language. You’ll improve your posture as your body optimises itself for taking in air and projecting sound.
Singing triggers the release of endorphins in the body, which can actually reduce pain. Meanwhile, as you concentrate on your notes, words, rhythms and tone, your brain is distracted from focussing on physical or emotional pain. Muscle relaxation and lowered blood pressure are benefits rooted in a similar chain of cause and effect.
CREATIVITY AND DISCOVERY THROUGH MUSIC.
It seems pretty obvious to me how much opportunity for creativity and discovery there is in music. Whether you are creating or consuming it, your brain engages in interpretation. Attaching images, words memories and meanings to music is a natural act of imagination. Even those who don’t consider themselves ‘imaginative’ report that music reminds them of the time or place that they first heard it.
If we don’t create music of our own, we can use the work of others to influence and enhance our preferred routes of creativity. You might choose to edit your photo slideshow to the beat of your favourite holiday song. Crafting to the music of a particular culture may inspire you to decorate an item with the imagery and patterns associated to that same culture. Compiling the perfect playlist to boost your work-out energy can be a creative endeavour!
I hope that you’ll visit the TRACKS category of Make Tracks Travel - to discover music reviews, playlists to enhance your experiences, and inspiration to make your first steps in music-making!
Comment below to tell me what you’d like to see and HEAR more of!