An article in todays’ New York Times, Is Music the Key to Success? piqued my interest this morning. I am a dedicated violinist, meaning I love the violin and like to play it just about every day. That doesn’t mean however, that my music would stir the soul as it can, at times, sound like claws bearing down on glass. Still, for some reason, my two parakeets and my furry boys love to listen it and will sit calmly on their respective perches and rug while I happily strum forth. So what is it about music that lends this calming though often emotional sensation one feels?
Studies on the brain-music connection abound, ranging from MRI detection of self censoring areas of the brain going dormant while the self expression areas kicked into high gear to detection of gray matter differences between musicians and non-musicians. One only needs to Google the internet to find the numerous scholarly articles backing up the premise that the brain on music changes. Music or the appreciation thereof, alters the self expression and pattern recognition areas of the brain, fine tuning those synaptic exchanges that allow for more creative expression and emotional release via expression. Apparently some form of pattern recognition pathways build or connect, perhaps reconnect in a manner that makes pitch; frequency so easily definable and mathematics more readily intuitive.
By now you’re probably thinking, ‘well, of course, any well structured course of action from aerobic exercise to yoga to whatever, will change one’s brain if one goes at it long enough’. My point is that the brain always changes and enhancing one’s overall emotional state and creativity by learning music at any age, will produce the same structural changes researchers see in musicians. Perhaps not to the same degree as the brain of a professional musician, but enough…
I recall from my hazy past, sitting with my violin teacher as he spoke about practice; something I was not mature enough to dedicate myself to at the time, when a rather fine though faint rendition of Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, came floating through the walls. “You should be doing this by now Deborah”, he said. I knew Jesu was a relatively easy Bach movement so it didn’t exactly set my pants on fire even though I did appreciate the excellent playing. What set me on fire occurred in the hallway after the lesson. A rather large 50-ish man (old to me a the time) with a finely manicured beard was coming down the hall proudly bearing his violin case and a coat.
My teacher pipes up; “That’s So-n-So’s student, he was playing Jesu”.