Music Soothes the Soul
“If a child hears good music from the day of his birth, and learns to play it himself, he develops sensitivity, discipline and endurance. He gets a beautiful heart.” –Shinchi Suzuki (1898 – 1998)
I remember when my mother encouraged me to practice my violin and how I tried to find one excuse after another to get out of it. Soon she was sitting at the piano, willing to help me practice. I reluctantly began playing, not putting my heart into it, feeling a bit rebellious. But it did not take long until I began to feel the soothing sounds of the music and my soul began to relinquish the unruly attitude within me. Why did this music have such an effect on me?
Music has changed throughout the years, but its purpose is the same. The type of music we listen to affects the brain. Some music has been proven to help memorization, to help us retain information we have learned. It has to do with order, symmetry, rhythmic patterns, repetition, ideal mathematical form, and harmony.
A study was done to test whether or not music can help in retaining information. White mice were taught to go through a maze to find food. One group listened to no music, the second group listened to Strauss waltzes, and the third group listened to hard rock music. After eight weeks, the mice were tested to see if they had improved. The mice with no music had improved but the mice that listened to Strauss waltzes made it through much faster. When the scientists checked the hard rock mice, they were not prepared for what they found. The mice did not get better in finding the food, but had gotten worse, becoming disoriented. The scientists waited a few weeks to see if the results were the same. The Strauss mice had retained their memory while the hard rock mice had lost their memory of the whole thing.
The American Psychological Association wrote, “Those dreaded piano lessons pay off in unexpected ways: According to a new study, children with music training had significantly better verbal memory than their counterparts without such training, plus, the longer the training, the better the verbal memory. Psychologists at the Chinese University of Hong Kong studied 90 boys between age six and fifteen. Half had musical training as members of their school’s string orchestra program. The other 45 participants were schoolmates with no musical training. The researchers, led by Agnes S. Chan, Ph.D., gave the children verbal memory tests, to see how many words they recalled from a list, and a comparable visual memory test for images. Students with musical training recalled significantly more words than the untrained students. There were no such differences for visual memory.” (“Music Training Improves Verbal but Not Visual Memory,” American Psychological Association, Neuropsychology, Vol. 17, No. 3.)
C. A. Harding did brain studies in 1982 at the University of North Texas. They brought in 300 people. They wanted approximately the same kind of learning abilities, so everyone they chose had PhD’s. These people were separated into two groups and taught 300 vocabulary words. The first group listened to Handel’s Water Music as they learned the words and definitions. The second group learned their words without music. To the surprise of the scientists, there was a big difference in the test scores. The group with the music scored much higher. Two weeks later, the groups were brought back in and checked to see if they had retained the words, and there was a much bigger difference in the scores. The group without music had forgotten half the words. In the first group, the brain must have felt the orderly manner of the music and was able to retain the vocabulary words.
I read an article in the Time Magazine titled “Fingers, Brains, and Mozart.” It said, “Mozart’s music has intrigued researchers since 1993, when scientists at the University of California at Irvine found that college students who heard ten minutes of the composer’s Sonata for Two Pianos in D major raised their IQ scores on tests of spatial-temporal reasoning—a skill related to math. Mozart appears to strengthen the neural connections that underlie mathematical thought. Other researchers have used the two-piano sonata to improve the spatial-temporal reasoning of an Alzheimer’s patient and to reduce the number of seizures in epileptics.” (“Fingers, Brains, and Mozart,” Time Magazine, July 5, 1999.)
It has been found that music can change behavior. The right kind can turn depression into joy, anger to calmness, hate to love, and fear to courage. Beautiful music has an effect on people and it can soothe and take away feelings of frustration and anger. Music definitely makes a difference in alleviating tension.