It is difficult to remain oblivious to something as omnipresent in daily life as music. The
world of sounds and tones is inescapable. Whether you’re stepping in synchronized
fashion on an unfinished city sidewalk to the rhythm of jackhammers, or wandering
aimlessly in nature while the local fauna bellows like an orchestra; life itself becomes a
genre of its own worth exploring. Neurologist and author, Oliver Sacks once said,
“Music is part of being human.” in his book Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain.
There is a well known video of him and his team of therapists experimenting with
unresponsive elderly patients in a New York nursing home. As soon as familiar songs of
their day were reintroduced, the elders quickly became more cognitive, felt more
present, and could communicate more easily with the staff. One man with Alzheimers
had been a particularly heartwarming and fascinating case of music becoming a tool
used for healing.
Learning a musical instrument is possible for anyone at any stage in life. Results found
in a study conducted by the Institute of Education at the University of London, show
that learning an instrument promotes many mental and physical benefits. A young mind
being trained to recognize pitch, and to perceive quick variations in sound is greatly
impacted in the areas of social networking, self-confidence, fine motor-skills, and
emotional sensitivity. Joining a band, or playing in the school orchestra are also
examples in developing a sense of belonging for any misunderstood child. In a more
technical manner, when teaching a student to read and analyze musical notes, theory,
and texts, their abilities to memorize long stretches of information reach greater
heights. Whether music becomes a choice of career or not, adults that persisted in
musical learning from early on in their lives for at least 4-14 years reap the benefits later
on, such as advanced neural timing when recognizing and responding to speech.
There is evidence in a recent Swedish study suggesting that musical training can delay
or even completely prevent cognitive impairment and dementia as one grows older.
Our favorite songs of today, are the memories of the future that give our lives context
and meaning. A heartfelt musical composition can breathe passed the complex
barriers of language. Art is the ultimate unifier, and music is part of the connective
tissue that enables the world to move closer to understanding the emotional depths
within cultural differences, as well as within ourselves as individuals.
Oliver Sacks Video: