Welcome back! Last time I covered a lot of information regarding the relationship between emotion and music. In the post, I talked about how music can be a wonderful outlet and coping mechanism for musicians and listeners alike. This week, I’m covering the less common topic of: music and its relationship with our memories.
If you think about it, you’ve likely experienced music’s effect on memory every day of your life without really realizing it. For instance, if I said to you: “Charmin Ultra, less is more.” You just might sing it;). People in advertising are very familiar with the concept that music has a remarkable way of helping people remember things. If you ever had to memorize something in school, you may have had a teacher use this technique. (Shout out to the Animaniacs for their songs about the countries, states and capitals when I was in school).
In addition, the brain is essentially a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger its abilities. When someone listens to or plays music, the memory center of the brain lights up completely, (and more so for the musician than for the listener). I taught seven piano lessons today, and I can tell you that this is clearly evident during the lesson. Let me explain:
During a lesson, one of the first things your piano teacher will do with the student is have them “sight-read” the song. This simply means playing at first sight. In my lessons and depending on the student, we generally spend a lot of time looking over the music and determining what to prepare for throughout the song. Once they begin to play, the first time through the piece is generally pretty rough. (As it is for me the first time I play a difficult piece.) Throughout the sight-reading process, the student is absorbing as much information about the piece as they possibly can. The notes, counts, dynamics, articulations, fingering, and tempo are just a few of the things on a student’s mind when they’re doing their first run-through. There’s a lot to absorb. After the first painful time through the piece, I can see the exhaustion manifest itself in each student. In some, they check out and want to do something else, (sometimes halfway through the piece or less) others physically sigh and slump over, announcing “PHEW!”
The truth is, learning a piece takes a lot of brain power, and most of us feel the brain fry! This kind of mental exhaustion is largely due to the fact that the memory center of the brain is working at full capacity. But here’s the cool part: after playing through the piece for the first time, I have my students play it just one more time, (sometimes with a break in-between). From the first time to the second time through, I cannot express just how drastically their ability to play the song increases. It is honestly so much fun to watch. Afterwards, the student always seems much less intimidated by the song and much more ready to go for the week.
Exercising this portion of the brain so efficiently spills into a number of other subjects. In fact, reputable experiments have shown that musicians demonstrate more advanced abilities when it comes to the memorization involved in several academic subjects. Feel free to read my main reference below for this blog post – it goes into further detail with some fascinating examples. To keep this short and sweet, I’ll just let you know that it’s absolutely real and so stinking cool.
Thank you so much for reading this week! Join me next time where I’ll delve into the relationship between music and its effect on, believe it or not, our physical movements! (That is, beyond making us want to dance).
Talk to you soon!
Welcome back! I hope you enjoyed the Rock Your Socks Off Composer Series! I hope to throw those in pretty frequently, and I had a lot of fun doing the first one. Following that series, we’ll be covering some of the positive effects that music has on those who listen and play. You have already taken the first steps to making your home a musical one, now I’m going to show you some of the wonderful things coming your way – not just for your child who is learning to play, but for everyone who listens as well!
When someone listens to or creates music, there are three main areas in the brain that really light up. Today, I’ll be introducing all three, and honing in on one for the week. So let’s get started.
It’s no secret that sound travels in waves. When we hear any noise, those sound waves pass through our bodies. When the sound first enters into your ear, your brain then processes the information in the auditory cortex, and spits back the knowledge of what you’re hearing. You probably covered this in third grade science.J What you may not have learned is the brain lights up more than just the auditory cortex when it hears music. Unlike most sounds, music can create flashes of electrical currents through other areas of the brain such as the areas where we process emotion, memory and even physical movement! (https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2018/01/sound-health) Incredible, right?
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be delving in with some insight on how each area of the brain is affected, and some ways in which you can maximize these positive effects in your home. Today, I’m discussing that area of the brain where we process emotion.
Emotion Through Music
You’re probably familiar with the idea that music can inspire an emotional reaction. For children who learn to play and instrument or dance, those emotional reactions through music can serve as a therapeutic pathway for those who deal with anxiety, depression, and a myriad of other mental ailments. Even if the student doesn’t have an official diagnoses, every human experiences difficult emotions at one point or another. Whether they are aware of it or not, by taking music lessons, your developing child has opened a new window of self-discovery and self-treatment which they may not have been able to access otherwise. I know from firsthand experience that playing my favorite pieces on the piano when I am upset help me to slow down, relax, and maybe even consider more creative solutions to my problems. As I become a more educated music teacher, I hope to be able to delve into the actual biological reasons for this event, but for now, I can just tell you that it does happen, and it’s a pretty incredible thing when it does. Even from a very young age and early on in my piano lessons, I struggled with feeling anxious about school and had issues with my self-esteem. During these fairly frequent phases of time, I would sit at the piano, choose my favorite song, and play it repeatedly. I learned my new pieces as well, but I remember spending a lot of time on the ones I already knew and enjoyed playing. Somehow, being able to just “rock-out” on a song I knew by memory would help me to just be able to play without thinking very hard; a meditation for my little over-worked, anxious brain.
Not only does music affect the creator, but the listener as well. This is why I strongly recommend introducing a wide variety of music into your home, including the time-periods and genres you may not have considered previously such as Classical, Baroque, Romantic, New Age, Modern, movie scores, meditation music – seriously, whatever you can think of that isn’t played on the radio every day. J And, while it may sound a little artsy and abstract, (you’re welcome) I would recommend paying attention to how the music makes you feel. Even if you’re listening on-the-go, taking a quick moment to observe how the music affects you can have a huge impact on your life. You may find yourself drawn to certain kinds of music for different situations. At other times, you might decide you feel nothing. That’s ok tooJ. Either way, exposing yourself and your child to different kinds of music broadens both of your horizons and enhances your ability to process emotions through a very healthy outlet.
An article written by Lecia Bushak with Medical Daily recalls a study performed at Stanford University. It reads:
“Despite our idiosyncrasies in listening, the brain experiences music in a very consistent fashion across subjects,” Daniel Abrams, an author of the study and a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University School of Medicine, told CNN. Participants in the study, who had no formal musical training, listened to four symphonies by William Boyce, while undergoing an fMRI brain scan. The researchers found that among all the participants, the music had an almost identical effect in their brains; it activated brain regions that are involved in movement, planning, attention, and memory — which means that when we listen to music, we aren’t just simply processing sound, like background noise or the sound of a car engine. Music is more meaningful to our brains than just any sound: It's repetitive, melodious, organized.”
If you are interested in listening to some classical music but are not sure where to begin, I would recommend checking out any of my blog posts called the “Rock-Your-Socks-Off Composers” Series. Any one of those composers can get you off to a great start! Otherwise, Spotify, Google Play and Apple Music have some really great playlists as well. If you know you’re not really interested in classical music, try some New Age or popular movie scores. Some of my favorite New Age music includes Martin Jacoby, Laura Sullivan and yes, I admit it, The Piano Guys. Great movie scores include anything done by James Horner, John Williams and Hanz Zimmer.
Thank you so much for joining me this week and learning a bit about how music activates the emotional center of your brain. Next week, I’m going to spend some time specifically on the effects of music on the limbic system of the brain, particularly with regards to memory.
See you guys next week!
Welcome back for the fourth and final installment of this “Rock Your Socks Off” composer series. I’m so glad you stopped by, and I hope you like what I’ve put together for this week’s amazing female composer!
Delving into the world of fantastic composers throughout history, it was actually difficult to narrow it down to just four for a month’s worth of blogs. I’m excited for the next time I get to throw in a composer series, because there really are many more composers worth mentioning and listening to.
This week, I’m covering an Austrian composer born in 1759 named Maria Theresa von Paradis. Throughout her life, she wrote two piano concertos, two piano sonatas, five operas, and many, many more pieces. A large portion of her works have unfortunately been lost, though while alive she was one of the only female composers who was able to gain popularity across Europe. Unlike many female composers born in the eighteenth century, Paradis had the opportunity to tour France, England and Germany. She even caught the attention of Amadeus Mozart, who is rumored to have written his Piano Concerto no. 18 in her honor. Maria was also permitted to study with renowned piano teachers of the time in order to further her musical education. Pretty incredible, considering that the level of opportunity afforded her was virtually unheard of for women at the time.
Paradis was not without struggles, however. Around two years old, she began losing her eyesight and was completely blind by the age of five. Even at such a young age and without being able to see, Paradis was a musical prodigy, well-known by the age of seventeen. At the time, transcribing original compositions while blind was a very difficult task. With the help of a man named Johann Reidinger, Paradis could use a special composition board which was tailored to her needs, and she was able to record her musical genius.
Later in life, Maria founded a music school for girls in Vienna, Austria where she taught voice, piano and music theory.
If you like what you learned about Maria Theresa von Paradis, make sure to check out one of her most famous pieces - Sicilienne, (my favorite is the arrangement written for cello and piano).
Thanks for stopping by! Since this is the last of my composer posts for a while, I’d love to hear your ideas on what you may like to see for the next composer series, (any specific genres or groups that you’re interested in).
See you next week!