Friday, March 9, 2012

In Praise of Music

We tend to undervalue what's inexpensive and easily accessible, whether it be aspirin, the Internet, or the topic of this post: music.

For the moment, forget the miracle of being able to listen to and watch on YouTube, with a click of your mouse, for free, the world's greatest performances, from Glenn Gould's Bach Goldberg Variations to the shopping mall flash mob of the Hallelujah Chorus.

I'm talking here just about the benefits of listening. And I'm not claiming, as some people have, that listening to classical music increases cognitive ability. Indeed, the preponderance of the evidence now suggests that's not true. Here are ways I benefit from music. Perhaps you might too:

When I'm feeling blue, pump-it-up music is my antidepressant--and it has no side-effects. Of course, you'll want to identify your own musical pepper-uppers but my sure-fire ones include: Big Phat Band's A Few Good Men: and Watermelon Man:, New Life Choir's Oh How Wondrous, and My New Philosophy from You're a Good Man Charlie Brown: . You can download each for permanent use for 99 cents, less than the cost of one Prozac. (I do consider "file sharing" to be stealing.)

I listen to such a song just a couple of times, and not only do I feel better while listening, afterwards the melody often keeps rolling around in my head--it's a long-acting anti-depressant.

When I'm anxious, music is as calming to me as meditation without having to spend the time. Examples of music that reliably soothe me: Bach's Air on a G String, any Beegie Adair piano music: , Doc Severinsen's Big Band's Siliciano: and the second movement of Mozart's Clarinet Concerto.

Music also can be a motivator. My main exercise is a vigorous hike every day with my beloved Einstein. Taking my mp3 player, loaded mainly with pump-it-up music on my hike, motivates me to resist the temptation to skip the day's hike. That music also makes the hike more pleasurable.

Beyond listening, performing music, even if you're a beginner, can be life-enhancing. Whether by ear or with sheet music, trying to recreate great music or create your own is, for many of us, a welcome antidote to the heavily cognitive lives many of us lead. Even though a hand condition has recently reduced me to being a seven-fingered pianist, as you can see on THIS video. I still derive much pleasure from playing, and maybe my playing still can give pleasure to others.

Might you want to try a low-risk experiment? Create a musical tool kit: Whether on mp3, CD, whatever, pick one song you know will pump you up, one that will calm you down, and a third you'll enjoy no matter what your mood. And might you want to play around with a musical instrument, even a drum? Or sing, perhaps in a choir. Or perhaps if you played an instrument eons ago, you might want to pull it out of your closet and see if you can still play the old stuff or, with fresh ears, try new things. Whatever combination of tools, consider trying out your toolkit to see if it improves your life at all.

1 comment:

John J. Walters said...

I don't do anything without music, if I can help it.

And if you're looking for a great alternative to downloading music illegally, here are three alternatives.

1) Pandora (a paid subscription is cheap, but you can now listen as much as you want for free).

2) Spotify or other subscription services that allow access to TONS of music for between $10 and $15 per month (and some have free options too!).

3) There are plenty of free iTunes podcasts out there with new music every week. All you have to do is be okay with listening to the hosts talk a bit.

Nice that there are free options to stealing, these days, eh?


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