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Saturday, September 14, 2013

Psychology of Music Infographic: Why This Matters to You and Your Children, Your Family and The World

Okay, this particular infographic got a lot of facebook shares about a month ago, and I'm just getting around to breaking it down for you all.  I'm not sure if looking at it once (though they say that a picture's worth a thousand words) really communicates the concepts, for those of you who aren't visual learners, and because I think it's very important to grasp the information that this graphic presents, I'm going to talk about it a bit in this blog post, so that we can fully appreciate all the wonderful benefits of music, be thankful for them, and share them with others as often as possible! :) But first, if you haven't already- look at the infographic below (my commentary follows at the end).The Psychology of Music   

First of all, the most important message that is contained in this infographic isn't found at the top- it's found in the middle- where the two graphs show the importance of music in education.  These two graphs are relevant to you, even if you're not a musician, because it explains how much of a positive influence music has in life outside of music.  That's right, music is good just for the fact that you have it in your life (as evidenced by the high SAT scores of the kids who just simply took a music appreciation course- which normally consists of learning a bit of music history, but also a lot of listening to different kids of music- in fact, if it's a good course- a whole lot of music- with a whole lot of different influences), which means that you don't have to be directly making music yourself for it to have a huge positive impact in your life.  That, right there, is a fact that many lawmakers need to consider when they make choices like cutting out the music programs in schools (ahem, the state of KANSAS: enemy # 1!!), which they feel they are doing for the benefit of the students so they can do better in their other, more important subjects.  (Hello! That graph clearly shows that students who simply learn about music (not even play it!) do SO much better in their other subjects BECAUSE of their music knowledge---so, how the lawmakers can consider cutting music to be a good idea, I cannot understand.  Nonetheless, I digress. (Ha...that rhymes!)

Besides this being an ad (sort of backhandedly) for the University of Florida's music program (okay, you can't really blame them for lauding the positive aspects of the field in which they're involved!), who might have ever thought that being a Music Teacher could be characterized as 'making a difference in the world'?  I mean, okay, all of you musicians and music teachers and music lovers aside, who already know what I'm getting at, how many people do you know in your communities who would never dream of putting a Music Teacher into the same category as a UN Delegate, or a President, or a billionaire Philanthropist, or even on a smaller scale, a Doctor?  Those people are typically the sorts that come to mind when someone mentions 'making a difference in the WORLD'....., so it's pretty colossal that Music Teachers are now, because of this recent evidence presented in the graphic, able to be welcomed into that category.  In fact, I would wager to say that because of the information presented above (the fact that music positively affects a person's abstract reasoning, anger management, overall success, and ability to be compassionate and conquer difficult challenges-aka the medical student statistic), a Music Teacher has the ability, unlike the types of people I mentioned in the previous sentence, to change a person's life in not just one area, but in many important ones.

The portion about brain waves and their effect on the body and a person's psychological state isn't so well explained, so I'll try to take that apart a little now, so you can understand what they were going for there.  For instance, have you ever had the experience of listening to a guided meditation which had music in the background?  That music was specifically chosen because it helped to create more Theta waves in your brain, thereby deepening your meditation practice.  Or, how many times have we listened to Mozart's instrumental works when trying to focus?  That is because his music increases Gamma waves. Alpha waves can be produced by listening to music that relaxes you, for instance: Debussy or even something more modern like Terry Riley.  Beta waves may be created when listening to music that makes you anxious, perhaps something scary like Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain, or highly atonal and discordant like Berio, or creepy like Carmina Burana (think of all the scary film music out there). You could also argue that Delta waves are produced by music since there are a number of people who listen to music to fall asleep by, and claim that it is some of their deepest sleep- so, regardless of the music (but perhaps it's something like 'smooth' jazz), it does have the ability to reach us even in sleep in a positive way.  And, these are all the subconscious effects that music has on a person's mind and mood- how wonderful that it this happens even when we might not consciously be realizing it- less mental work, and more reward, I say!  Then the graphic goes on to relate the brain wave activity to the fact that when we hear music, our brains are alerted and working in more areas than when we take part in any other activity.  It goes without saying then, that listening to music is a highly important pastime, especially if you plan on living a long life with healthy brain activity.

Finally the part of the graphic that is presented first and third, and may be the most obvious and difficult to argue with- simply because so many people have experienced firsthand the positive physical results, is the one which describes how the ear processes music (and sound in general) and transports it to the brain, and then what sorts of positive effects that music has on the brain in the realms of skills, neurological disorders improved, and healing powers- both physically and emotionally.  Haven't we all, at some time or another, noticed that when we're running or exercising we like to listen to a certain kind of music that keeps us motivated and happy?  Or, when we hear a certain piece it brings back memories of the past?  Or, how about when we have a headache and put on something soothing and the headache pain is gone or has greatly decreased after listening?  You can probably name a few pieces that you listen to when you're feeling down which always cheer you up, or conversely, when you're looking to dwell in your sorrows, a piece that always bring out the melancholy, even on a sunny day? All of these firsthand experiences plainly show us that music has direct positive effects on us in many different ways.  However, most of you knew all of this already, and those of you who didn't- well, get out there and listen to more music- and you'll soon be able to experience all of these things for yourself (I'm even excited for you! So go!!).

And, congratulations to all of you who make it a priority to involve music in your lives and the lives of those you love, as well as champion its cause in your communities on a daily basis- you are the ones who are truly changing the world- and now you've got an arsenal of facts to prove it, should anyone think otherwise! :)


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