Written by Sharon Harrison
Most of us are not musicians by trade and we are not musically inclined or trained. We do not possess the talent to master an instrument, nor do we have the perfect vocal cords to call ourselves professional singers. Many of us do enjoy listening to music, whether it’s at a live concert for a favourite band, enjoying Mozart`s Piano Concerto No.23 in A major, or listening to the local radio station blasting out hits from the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s.
What does music mean to us? Woven through our everyday lives, it plays a central role in our mental health and is very much a part of us and is often taken for granted. What effect does it have on us and what role does it really play? Music in its many forms is part of what makes us human, but could we survive without it and how difficult would it be to function without the dulcet tones of a familiar tune to soothe or entertain us? Why do we need music in our lives? Does the type of music on our playlist tell us much about our personality or our mood for example? Can we determine someone’s character just because they prefer hard rock over jazz or rap?
How do we connect to music, or put another way, what is the role of music and its interconnectedness to us? Understood by many no matter the country of origin, music is the ultimate universal language. Music brings people together. While it is most often associated with pleasure or happy situations, it can be linked with difficult, sad or melancholic times. Music can be many things to many people and can make us feel and express different things, triggering different emotions, stimulating varying responses, especially on a deeply personal level. Music can be whatever you want it to be. Music can also be a distraction. It can make us feel good or feel better, sending messages of positivity, uplifting our spirits. Music can heal us in ways we may not immediately realize or appreciate. It can get you motivated, change your mood or even help you concentrate.
Music is known to relax us; it can bring joy, trigger a memory or it may comfort or calm us. It can make our hearts soar, get our toes tapping or reduce us to tears. Music can be unpredictable. It can even give us goose bumps. Hearing a familiar tune can make us spontaneously burst into song, sometimes at the top of our lungs. Others may hum along a little more discretely. But music can also be repetitious, irritating or unpleasant and not always to our liking.
Music can be unsettling. It can also drive us a little crazy sometimes: remember how a tune gets into your head and no matter what you do, it stays there for days running over and over in your mind? Some people aren’t affected by earworms, others are plagued by them. But how does a tune find its way into our mind refusing to leave?
Some people connect with the words of a song where the lyrics can send a profound message. Others are attracted to the tempo or the rhythm. It is one of the reasons many companies use catchy tunes when making commercials. The tune grabs for our attention long before the product does, reeling us in, and before we know it, we are paying attention to what is being offered. People listen to music while they are driving, exercising or showering; others need it to be able to fall asleep, many wake-up to it. We sing hymns at church, play pop music at parties, and sing the national anthem at hockey games. For some, it is more about the instrument than the voice where the strings of a guitar are preferred over the sound of piano keys or the twang of a harp. Some may enjoy the pure singing voice of a soprano while others will appreciate the skill of a talented drummer. Musical tastes vary enormously and are as individual and unique as each of us which explains why some prefer Bieber over Beethoven or Vivaldi over the Village People.
But imagine a world without music. Imagine not hearing a favourite rock song again, or not being able to smooch to a romantic tune or listen to a soft ballad from a cherished music box. Imagine not be able to whistle along to a catchy tune as you wash the dishes. If music was eliminated from our lives, what impact would it have and would we notice its absence? Is the existence of music really so important?
We do know music is good for us and studies have found music has many health benefits. It makes you smarter, happier and more productive. A tune will get your heart pumping and it stimulates the brain in extraordinary ways. Listening to music activates many different areas of the brain, changing our brain chemistry, and if it’s a tune we really like, the brain will release dopamine, the feel good chemical. Next time you find yourself in need of some easy listening, think about its whole effect on the mind, body and soul.
Originally Published: June 27, 2017