Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 10

Morales 1 Garry Morales 22 March 2013 Maturing the mind: How music enhances our potential After Miguels

graduation from high school, he faced a dilemma about whether to study engineering or music. Having first reflected deeply, he chose civil engineering as primary career, and his musical passion was buried. During his college years, he was successful; he often helped his classmates with math problems because he possessed the ability to visualize solutions in his head very impressively, and he also enjoyed being part of his college debating team. One day by chance, he read an article about musical benefits and he then realized that although he had left music behind, it did not matter because music had sharpened his skills. Miguels story has a lesson for everyone: the years learning music whose benefits last during all lifetime will be evident both intellectual and emotionally. Thanks to recent advances in neuroscience, there has been an increasing interest for researchers about how music improves the function of the brain, especially at early ages. Part of the benefits that musical stimulation brings out is that help develop mathematic skills what let children exploit their usage in many daily life activities. Therefore, if children are subjected to musical stimulation at early age, they will probably have the facility to resolve complex math problems, in other words, the ability of finding solutions of daily problems, or the so-called logical reasoning process. Rauscher and Hintons study is, perhaps, one of these investigations that approach the same idea by associating how music stimulates the spatial-temporal reasoning. In their experiment executed in preschool level, they divided 78 students in three different groups: in piano (individually) with singing lesson, in only singing lesson, and computer instruction. After several months of training, children were pre and post-tested and, despite of no difference in the pretest, kids in piano-singing training scored higher on visual and auditory tasks

Morales 2 that demanded partial and temporal abilities, same for Arithmetic, but not on two verbal tasks which computer group dominated (216). Thus the researchers said that singing and playing the piano requires primarily visual-physical representation of intervals (distance between tones) which is equally and linearly depicted in the keyboard. Moreover, this statement explains why the singing group did not get high score as the piano-singing counterpart because only singing training lacks of the visual representation of pitches (217). Furthermore, the spatial-temporal reasoning is linked to the perception as an implied activity that recognizes the cognitive process, in other words, the perception adapts our setting within learning. Also important to mention that the spatial-temporal reasoning gives the ability of reproducing geometric shapes in different dimensions which is really useful for architects, sculptors, painters, designers, etc. An amazingly particular case is Albert Einsteins perception as an irrefutable proof that demonstrates how musical benefits expanded his imagination when he found the famous Theory of Relativity or also known as the optics of motion. Cited by Shinichi Suzuki, Einstein granted that by saying, "It [the optics of motion] occurred to me by intuition. And music is the driving force behind this intuition. My parents had me study the violin from the time I was six. My new discovery is the result of musical perception" (Suzuki 79). Although the piano and the violin have different characteristics, the relationship is the same insomuch as coordination is visual as well as physical. Another aspect considered by researchers is if the advantages brought in by early music training help potentiate speaking skills, what might further refine the preschool instruction. Sylvain Moreno highlights that Bangert and others study, carried out in 2006, revealed the close connection between music and language by exhibiting more cerebral activity in areas of the brain related with language processing in musicians than in non-musicians (qtd. in Moreno 335). Music per se has its own language, or better said its own notation, structure, and metric; both music and language are constituted by acoustic elements such as pitch, duration, dynamics, and timbre

Morales 3 (Kenney 28), whose elements explain why the brain in non musicians showed less activity than trained musicians. In order to illustrate the above statement, with pedagogic purposes, music teachers of the Southern Georgia String Project start their lesson by showing the musical figures not as abstractions but through words because students are more familiar with. Then, as language divides words in syllables, they assign a word which every syllable has equal duration, for example, in order to fit two equal part in one beat (tapping or clapping) students say DOC-TOR which belongs to the duple figure in music; or LI-BRA-RY for a triple figure; or MI-SSI-SSI-PPI for quadruple figure, and so on. Likewise, singing those examples like MI-SSI-SSI-PPI and LIBRA-RY provides refinement in speaking skills due to correct accentuation-shaping of words (Santacruz). Indeed, many studies in music and language topics have forayed prosody melody (or intensity-pitch) relationship which have concluded that musical expertise, by increasing sensitivity to pitch, enhances pitch detection not only in music, but also in speech (Moreno 335). The sound element in music pointed out above by Moreno boosts coordination in speaking because either music or language has sonorous (phonemes) and rhythmic (syllables) patterns. Precisely rhythmic patterns together with form and metric elements are the reasons why music has positive effects in memorizing. For instance, the structure of a sentence can be associated with shaping a phrase in a composition: they both present inflexions where the performer stresses and relaxes what it wanted to be expressed. Many musicians take advantages of it when memorizing because instrumental music, although it lacks of lyrics, is accompanied by harmony (or ordered pitches sounding at same time), what it is even easier for singers because their musical literature has lyrics as well as harmony. In teaching the first lessons in music imply to hear songs with melodic and rhythmic patterns in order to memorize them (Santacruz) which normally are pieces easy to catch on our minds as Mary had a little lamb or the Alphabet song. Their structures are simply composed by two or not more than four phrases that are

Morales 4 repeatedly sung, and most of these tunes include their titles in the first phrase. Melodically, these compositions are simple because they require children to sing few different pitches, for example, Mary has a little lamb has three pitches in different variations. Hence, the ability of memorizing songs is undeniably helpful in learning too what it seems to reveal connections between verbal and visual memory. In fact, a study carried out by Hanna-Pladdy and Mackay in 2011, on three groups of senior with different levels of music training demonstrated that musician realized much better on verbal and visual memory activity than their non-musician counterpart (378). Then based on it, for musicians it would be easier to remember names (verbal memory) and also to work better on all what they look at (visual memory). Once again, it is demonstrated that visual and verbal coordination plays a prevailing part in cerebral stimulation given by music. Looking at another extra-musical benefit, music seen as lifetime training keeps the auditory sense sharp. It is well known that playing in a band, orchestra, or other little ensembles is one of the most demanding activities and requires as much attention as possible all the time about what is happening around, and a musician, therefore, must be aware of not only what one plays but also what other musicians play. According to Benjamin Zendel and others, this intensive training in the future will prevent any age-related hearing less. They found less hearing problems in life-long musicians than non-musicians, this is because being a musician is a highly demanding cognitive activity, in some cases requiring the coordination of 1800 notes per minute, thus required highly developed working and long-term memory, in addition to integrated and precise auditory, motor, sensory and visual processing and it is, therefore likely that lifelong musicianship will influence age-related changes on some or all these cognitive abilities (Zendel 416). In summary, constant ear training keeps the auditory sense sharp. It is interesting that Zendel highlights that music training not only integrates several braining tasks involved in the cognitive process but also in an accurate way what, again, demonstrate the importance of music

Morales 5 for the coordination as an early training for children. On the other hand, it is worthy to mention that there have been some cases in which musicians have gradually lost their hearing because their long-term exposure while practicing or performing in closed halls with lots of reverberation and/or big instrumentation. Researchers have called this illness as noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) and, according to Boasson, there are four main reasons that can cause this illness in musicians: the orchestra pit or hall, the orchestra setting, the orchestration of the compositions, and the length of the concerts (Jansen et.al 154). What Boasson found reveals that the conditions where musicians perform have a decisive role in hearing loss because many times musicians play at small and cramped pits what modify the orchestra setting; it also depends on the amount of instrumentalists involved in a performance that can impact negatively in the auditory sense such as huge brass and percussion sections located behind less potent sections (strings and woodwinds), in addition to how many hours musicians perform per day (ballet and opera companies can have up to four performances daily). Hopefully in the future employers should consider these factors to make halls, settings and physical conditions more appropriate for musicians. Personal experiences have forced me to use silicon ear plugs, when rehearsing at resonating hall, to substantially lessen the impact on my hearing; however, it is possible to lose some significant effects that are necessary in the music realm. At an emotional level, music seemingly helps patients overcome social anxiety and other disorder behavior. The mystery about why music stays on our minds for long-term might explain why metal illness can be healed with music-therapy; because this long-term permanency in the brain, music might evoke in patients distant but pleasant memories that in turn would be stimulating cerebral connections involved in different emotional as well physical tasks. There are some reported cases in which music therapists confirm the existences of these cerebral connections such as a case published under observations of social anxiety in which a five-year-

Morales 6 old boy overcame his bad behavior when he listened to classical music as if the neurons, the cells of his brain, began to work properly (Gold). Although the music therapist only gives information based on observations, she relates the benefits provide by music to autism spectrum disorders with behavior problems; some of them are enhancing skills in communication, interpersonal relationships, self-regulation, coping strategies, stress management, and focusing attention (Gold). In another case, a music therapist reports how a nine-year-old child, who had not been able to attend school, amended his disorder behavior (aggressiveness and severe emotional crisis) and could be enrolled at a school after having received music-therapy aimed at increasing his attention span and helping him to enjoy self-expression (Herman qtd. in Foran 56). Other reported case was about a rape victim child who overcame her extreme anxiety by encouraging her to improvise music which raised her confidence (Henderson qtd. in Foran 56). As said above, these imperceptible but evidently beneficial cerebral connections that music stimulates are possible thanks to the cells that roam the brain, or better-called neurons. Those are regenerated throughout our lives what maintain the integration of the senses coordinated and responsive to external factors. Contrary the former statement, the story of Nathaniel Ayers, Jr. s reveals a harsh reality in which an individual involved in music underwent a sudden change on his behavior (The Soloist). Being a talented contrabass player, Nathaniel achieved admission at Julliard School of Music but in his third year, he suffered a mental crisis and left the school. After of being a homeless man for many years and playing the violin on the streets, he was discovered by a journalist who released his story in a newspaper. The journalist then realized that every time Nathaniel played, he became the person that once was before his mental breakdown (The Soloist). However, there is something questionable, why did not music avoid him the mental illness? And, why, when he plays, does he now seem to be cured? It is because the individuals environment plays a decisive

Morales 7 role when it does not satisfy external stimulations. Susan Kenney outlines how children construct their own knowledge and try to read into in accordance what is surrounding them, although they must have the freedom to develop dispositions habits of mind and attitudes- about themselves, others, and the world (29). New advances in neuroscience also show that because the brain development is an ongoing process and one-fourth of human genetic material is subjected to external-environmental simulation, [i]nteractions with the environment can produce either positive or negative changes in genes expression and especially in case of neglect and abuse bring about chemical and hormonal changes that prevent the development and integration of brain systems (Stien qtd. in Foran 54). This game of exploring the environment not only refines childrens skill but also fortifies their personalities. Returning to Nathaniels story, even though it might be a case in which traumas altered his emotional stability negatively causing his breakdown, music is still renewing what researchers call cerebral links that serve him to sharpen his senses in order to correlate his thoughts with his actions. David Hudson supports this idea by telling that recent experiments in music medicine studies manifest that hearing music affects the biochemistry of the blood which in turn may cause effective changes, and he emphasizes that music is not just a psychological distractor; rather, it elicits actual physical changes in the system (20-21). But what happen when a prodigy child grows up into very demanding surroundings? The tragic story of Josef Hassid reflects how too much pressure can be the musical realm when expectations are superimposed on an individual. Hassid, born in Poland in 1923, was considered by many influential musicians of his time one of the best violin players of the last two centuries; however, after moving to London, he showed the first symptoms of psychosis in 1941 what worsened in a chronic schizophrenia, and then spent his last nine years in several asylums until he died in 1950 (Feinstein). Assuming the version that he got his mental illness because of heartbreak, there is a relevant point to consider: his last girlfriend rejected his engagement

Morales 8 proposal because her family was anti-Semitic (Feinstein). Although Hassids family environment was normal, the new setting and his condition as a foreigner caused negative effects on him; he was rejected for his personal beliefs and religion, and his reaction was actually began speaking in derogatory terms about his religion, grimaced in front of the mirror, laughed inappropriately, frequently changed his clothing and denied his recordings were his own (Feinstein). Then, on one hand, his personality complex could he have brought since he and his father embarked to England before the Second War World exploded but the anti-Semitic sentiment was already widespread in Eastern Europe. On the other hand, a post factor could be the unsuccessful treatments that were practiced at the asylums which included repeated insulin doses and even 25 sessions of Electro-convulsive therapy. It will always exist uncertainty about what factor was decisive in causing Hassids crisis; the true is that the setting where an individual evolves plays an important role in the individuals development. In conclusion, everyone should receive music training during childhood because it stimulates the brain in a proper way, and even prevent some age-related illness. Because music stirs creativity and hearing, improves learning and memory skills, and consequently the language, and even strengthens the personality in an enjoyable environment, it should be incorporated into not only the pre-school instruction but also during the pregnancy. What makes music more relevant at early ages is its stimulation and refinement in the coordination of several tasks (visual, verbal, auditory, and motor activities) at the same time, something that any other activity requires. Whether or not you choose to be a musician, other benefits outside of the musical realms last a lifetime. So, if parents choose to allow their children to enjoy classical music, playing music, and appreciating the art of combining sounds, they will be grateful forever, similar to Miguel.

Morales 9 Work Cited Feinstein, Anthony. "In The Psychiatrist's Chair." Strad 108.1292 (1997): 1342. Advanced Placement Source. Web. 22 Apr. 2013. Foran, Lucille M. Listening to Music: Helping Children Regulate Their Emotions and Improve Learning in the Classroom. Educational Horizons 88.1 (2009): 51-58. ERIC, Jan. 2010. Web. 20 Apr. 2013. Gold, Claudia M. "Music, Children and Brain Development." Web blog post. Psychology Today. Child in Mind, 29 Sept. 2011. Web. 8 Mar. 2013. Hanna-Pladdy, Brenda, and Alicia MacKay. "The Relation between Instrumental Musical Activity and Cognitive Aging." Neuropsychology 25.3 (2011): 378-86. American Psychological Association, 4 Apr. 2011. Web. 13 Mar. 2013. Hodges, Donald A. "Implications Of Music And Brain Research." Music Educators Journal 2 (2000): 17-22. JSTOR Arts & Sciences IV. Web. 14 Mar. 2013. Jansen, A. P. M. de Laat, et al. "Noise Induced Hearing Loss And Other Hearing Complaints Among Musicians Of Symphony Orchestras." International Archives Of Occupational & Environmental Health 82.2 (2008): 153-164. Environment Complete. Web. 21 Apr. 2013. Kenney, Susan. "The Importance Of Music Centers In The Early Childhood Class." General Music Today 18.1 (2004): 28-36. Academic Search Complete. Web. 14 Mar. 2013. Moreno, Sylvain. "Can Music Influence Language And Cognition?." Contemporary Music Review 28.3 (2009): 329-345. Academic Search Complete. Web. 14 Mar. 2013. Rauscher, Frances H., and Sean N. Hinton. "Music Instruction and Its Diverse Extra-musical Benefits." Music Perception: An Interdisciplinary Journal 29.2 (2011): 215-26. JSTOR. Web. 11 Mar. 2013.

Morales 10 Santacruz, Maria L. "Pedagogic Methods Apply in the Southern Georgia String Project." Personal interview. 9 Mar. 2013. Suzuki, Shinichi. Young Kaufmanns impromptus. Nurtured by Love: The Classic Approach to Talent Education. Trans. Waltraud Suzuki. 2nd ed. Smithtown, NY: Exposition Press, 1983. 79. Print. The Soloist. Dir. Joe Wright. Perf. Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey Jr. DreamsWorks SKG, 2009. DVD. Zendel, B, and Alain, C. "Musicians Experience Less Age-Related Decline In Central Auditory Processing." Psychology & Aging 27.2 (2012): 410-417. CINAHL Plus with Full Text. Web. 14 Mar. 2013.