Why D We Have Music Essay Research

Why D We Have Music? Essay, Research Paper

Why Do We Have Music?

In a world full of universal truths, the public majority cares not to distinguish between which ideas are truly acknowledged the world round, and which are just fabrications (Meyer). According to Leonard B. Meyer s article in The Journal of American Medical Association, there are no existing universal truths in the many ideas of music and its theories. However, music by itself, is universal, because music is a prevalent tool in all cultures of the world (Weinberger). Being universal, music has sprung from many aspects of human development in individual countries.

The process of evolution proposes the idea that music s original purpose was to aid in sexual selection. Biomusicologists have made it feasible that females were attracted to males who made music, thus causing the non- musical males to be less likely to reproduce. In short, we have music, because to be human is to be musical (Weinberger). Understanding why evolution brought music into existence, it is evident that its original purpose is outdated in most cultures. This raises a seemingly simple question: What good is music today? Such a question facilitates a much more complex answer. Music affects people in an array of fashions. Music is crucial to the psychological effects it has on humans. This entails the induction and modification of cognitive states, moods, and emotions. Likewise, music plays an imperative role in development, whether the specifics pertain to religion, social and intellectual/academic growth, or physical development, including the measurement of well being from an unborn stage (neonatal) all the way through adolescence.

. Influencing adolescents through rock music, Michael Scully, a priest, president of Thomas More Prep-Marian High School, and author of a series of reflections for young people on modern music (The Message of Rock), states that Its (music is) one key to their becoming psychologically healthy people (Allen). Using music to offset class discussion, Scully found that he was better able to relate to kids about religion and values. Scully claims life lessons can be inferred from music. Through musical or lyrical interpretation, he forms His Message of Rock curriculum , complete with scripture reading, theme, and reflection, around the students (Allen). In church or class, Michael Scully continues to help the youths expand and progress their faith through rock music, furthering one s religious development.

Music has an irrefutable power to evoke emotions. Music compels overwhelming feelings, originating from within, to dictate moods, modify behavior, and alter the way situations are perceived ( The Coloring of Life: Music and Mood ). My own personal experience with an altered perception due to music had a great emotional impact on me. I was backstage at an Aerosmith concert, in the actual presence of the band, and Steve Tyler, the lead singer, spoke to me. An indescribable emotional rush took me over and I could have died a happy woman at that moment (Holliday). Many others have had experiences similar to mine. Poet and musician Patti Smith, writes about her own emotional reaction to seeing the Rolling Stones on The Ed Sullivan Show for the first time: I was scared silly. That band was relentless as murder. Five white boys sexy as any spade. Their nerves were wired and their third leg was rising. In six minutes, five lusty images gave me my first glob of gooie in my virgin panties .That was my introduction to the Rolling Stones (Smith 372).

Yielding to scientific investigation, recent research proposes that music plays a major role in coloring human emotion. Moods produced through music posses the power to divert attention and perception, affecting judgement. Expert musicologists, J. Lewis and M. Schefft, conclude that music dictates human thought process and behavior, allowing components in the brain to produce direct and unconscious affects on emotional development ( The Coloring of Life: Music and Mood ).

Music s position in physical development is assessed in stages: neonatal, infant, child, and adolescent. Young children and even infants are known to have surprisingly complex abilities to perceive and respond to basic components of music. This musical competency, evident long before the development of speech or the ability to play a musical instrument, raises the issue of the earliest age at which the brain can adequately process, learn and remember music (Kaminski). Increasing evidence suggests that the answer is “well before birth (Kaminski 1). In short, the womb appears to be the first concert hall.

Music promotes psychological and behavioral relaxation in neonates (Kaminski 1). High noise levels facilitate a chaotic environment and can be quite detrimental in neonatal attempts to produce homeostasis (well being) in unborn babies. A study was conducted to test whether homeostasis could be caused by music. The study monitored the arousal and emotional states of twenty normal term neonates in a control group and in another where soft, lyrical music was introduced (Kaminski). The results of this study yielded a significant drop in arousal states among the neonates exposed to music. Less is known about an infant s process of acquiring knowledge, perception, or intuition relating to thought process (cognitive abilities), than any other age group. It is known, however, that music aids the retrieval of memories in infants (Kaminski).

As music proves itself more and more crucial to human development, its influences are certainly observed in children. Going beyond the domain of music itself, music displays its beneficial nature in the cognitive skills and tendencies of children. Several studies support the conclusion that music is important in the development of a child s reasoning, motor development, social abilities and skills ( Music and Cognitive Achievement in Children ). Music is also helpful in providing insights into adolescent health. Progression toward more adult-like behavior is expected during this stage of human development. Since teens listen to over 10,000 hours of music from junior high through high school, it is a reliable fact that music is a highly emphasized element in adolescent development (Brown and Hendee 1). Sexual and violent lyrics, in relation to research conducted over the years, tie inner-struggles and social needs of teens to their development. Some contest that music is merely a bad influence on teens, who are in the most socially trying stage of maturation (Brown and Hendee). Currently, issues are focusing on the ties between music and adolescent risky behavior. However, the results of studies built around this very idea contradict negative opinion. Several studies conducted by the AMA (American Medical Association) indicate that students with poor academic performance were more involved in rock music than their successful peers ( Adolescent Emotional Response to Music and Risk-taking Behavior ). This suggests that this immersion may reflect their alienation from school, although the explicit messages of current rock music are often misinterpreted; they may respond more to general themes of rebellion than to specific lyrics. Still, no findings have inconclusively proven music to be in any way at fault for risk-taking behavior ( Adolescent Emotional Response to Music and Risk-taking Behavior ). A logical conclusion to this problem is that music provides a trigger for the release of emotions already present.

Many of the ideas and theories revolving around music provoke thought and sometimes generate argument, though intended solely to energize and expand thoughts and actions on music. Music prevails in its reason s for universality, and its importance in the lives of humans from infancy to adolescence, cultures and societies, and cognitive and intellectual growth. The idea of music s presence in the physical development had before been anticipated but never so substantially connected to all the stages of human development from infancy to adolescence, especially when compared to other aspects of human development. While there may be disagreements about the detailed nature of music research, the need for such research is not an issue. The issue is that the whole idea of music as significant participant in the process of human development relies on the dissemination and communication of these very ideas.

Music is obviously crucial to the many processes of human development, from the womb, all the way through adolescence. As a society, we are constantly being affected by music. It can predict moods, dictate thoughts and emotions, as well it can yield prevalent physical effects and aid religious development. It is truly amazing to think about all the ways in which music presents itself and its effects in our daily lives.


Adolescent Emotional Response to Music and Risk-Taking Behavior MuSICA 5.3

(1999) 10 Feb 2001 http://musica.uci.edu/index.html

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Priest. National Catholic Reporter 33.44 (1997): 3 pp. 2 February 2001


Brown, Elizabeth F. and Hendee, William R. Adolescents and their music: insights into

the health of adolescents. The Journal of American Medical Association. 262.12

(1989): 5 pp. 2 February 2001. http://web7.infotrac.galegroup.com/itw/session/

The Coloring of Life: Music and Mood MuSICA 6.1 (1999) 10 Feb. 2001


Holliday, Mary Ellen. The Ultimate Experience (2000)

Kaminski, J., HallW. Neonates: Health MuSICA. 7.1 (1999) 10 Feb. 2001


Meyer, Leonard B. A universe of universals. The Journal of Musicology. 16.1 (1998):

3 pp. 2 February 2001. http://web7.infotrac.galegroup.com/itw/session/

Music and Cognitive Achievement in Children MuSICA 1.2 (1994) 10 Feb. 2001


Smith, Patti. Rise of the Sacred Monsters Rock and Roll is Here to Stay: an Anthology

New York, NY: WW Norton & Co., 2000. pp372.

Weinberger, N. M. Why do we have music? MuSICA. 7.1 (1999) 10 Feb. 2001



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