Why Music Matters

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What are some of the significant songs or pieces of music for me?

The first music I remember was a collection of French children's songs that we had at home on 45rpm vinyl records whose tunes and misheard words I used to sing with my sisters. Coming across those records again recently, I was struck by the beautiful orchestration and harmony of many of the arrangements — that I must have heard at the time, but to which I had never really listened. Those records were "family", and the first music that I remember owning was a record of Hole in the Ground , recorded by Bernard Cribbins in Again it was the sound effects on the record the drill and shovel sounds that I remember being fascinated by ….

The best live musical experience? There's something very special about music that you're involved in as a player, and as a teenage violin player, I was a member of the British Youth Symphony Orchestra for a performance of Mahler's 5th Symphony.

It was a transforming experience — and I remember years later seething with rage after a performance in the Festival Hall when the person sitting next to me spent what seemed like the whole performance flicking through the programme while I was trying to "be the music", as Eliot put it.

There's something incredibly powerful about shared musical experiences with other people, and equally there's something horribly distracting and undermining about hearing music with someone who seems to be deaf to what's going on. Music is much more than the sound, of course, and another live experience that is firmly lodged in my memory is seeing the German progressive rock group Can in about — not only for their amazing and unearthly music, but also for the sight of Holger Czukay coolly playing his bass in white gloves.

Whatever their other virtues, Can were not a band that would fill the dancefloor, but a song from about the same time that reliably did, and which I loved to dance to, was Stevie Wonder's Superstition — that loose mobility and combination of relaxation with completely coordinated precision that engages the body in an utterly compelling manner. As for songs of love and death: well, I have to admit to a serious weakness for late Romantic harmony, so it's hard to avoid the Liebestod from Wagner's Tristan and Isolde. Then in the s going to the Coliseum in London to a production of Tristan and Isolde conducted by Reginald Goodall at which I was so engrossed that I recall wishing that there weren't any intervals.

Definitely not music that you'd want at a funeral, though, where collective and participatory music is the most powerful, and the most helpful. As a secular humanist, I'd paradoxically be very happy with any one of a number of bittersweet hymns. Linguistic Benefits Singing and musical stories can help children with vocabulary and reading skills, understanding lyrics and word play.

Exposure to a wide vocabulary through music can help children learn to communicate verbally and make learning to read more fun. Initially slumped in his chair and unable to recognize his own daughter, Henry seems to be miraculously brought out of his stupor by a few minutes of music from his youth.

Why Music Matters - Emilie Fry - [email protected]

Strengthens Social Connections Students who participate in school band or orchestra have the lowest levels of current and lifelong use of alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs among any group in our society. House of Representatives, Concurrent Res. Elevates Quality of Life for Adults Older Americans who are actively involved in music show improvements with anxiety, loneliness, and depression issues that are critical in coping with stress, stimulating the immune system and improving health.

American Music Conference Improves School Performance A Harvard-based study has found that children who study a musical instrument for at least three years outperform children with no instrumental training—not only in tests of auditory discrimination and finger dexterity skills honed by the study of a musical instrument , but also on tests measuring verbal ability and visual pattern completion skills not normally associated with music.

Gottfried Schlaug and Ellen Winne.

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And furthermore, the longer and more intensely the child had studied his or her instrument, the better he or she scored on these tests. Better Math Testing Middle school and high school students who report consistently high levels of involvement in instrumental music show significantly higher levels of mathematics proficiency by grade 12 regardless of students' socio-economic status.

Department of Education. Increases SAT Scores The College Entrance Examination Board found that students in music participation scored 63 points higher on verbal and 44 points higher on math tests than students with no arts participation.

Why Music Matters: Philosophical and Cultural Foundations

A subtle form of communication? Are there universal interpretations of the emotions that various pieces of music expresses?

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Or does one need to be part of a music "community" in order to appreciate musical expression? Throughout the program, our hosts and guest struggle to analyze the importance of something that persistently evades definition. John speculates that perhaps any sound can be music, if it is presented in the proper context. And surprisingly enough, our expert, David Harrington, to some extent, agrees with him. He believes that music is completely personal, thus making any classification or evaluation of music completely subjective.

For him, music, good music, is whatever sound or note he finds magnetizing. Whatever compells him. Ken, John, and members of the audience voice challenges to this view. Ken cites the fact that individual musical works can convey definite emotions, touching upon the mysterious conection between music and cognition.

Why Music Matters? - Why Music Matters

Nobody, he tells us, can come away from the haunting, dissonant soundtrack to Requiem for a Dream thinking it was a happy piece. If we can't have an objective standard of music-hood, how do we explain musical pieces having a basic, apparently universal interpretation? An audience member contests David's assertion that any evaluation of a music must be subjective, saying there seem to be cases in which we can set personal taste aside.

Certainly a chamber piece written by Brahms is objectively better than the muzak playing in Walgreens. And John says that if music is entirely subjective, we need some explanation for how we use the word "music" to make what appear to be objective judgements about the world.

Parallel to this debate is a discussion of the fundamental importance of music, with or without a solid definition.