How Thankful I am for Music
After spending another long Thanksgiving weekend with friends and family, I realized once again that when I think of the many things for which I am thankful: my children, glowing good health, a loving family, and a faith that sees me through anything life has to offer, music is always in the top five! For as long as I can remember I've played this little game with myself: if I were stranded on a desert isle, what could I find joy and hope in if everything else were taken from me. I can remember playing that game in my mind as an elementary age child, and the answer is always music! Even without my usual instrument, the piano, I have enough music in my head to last a lifetime. I have music for every possible mood and occasion. Even without a voice, eyesight, or sense of hearing, I could hear music in my head. Of course I would prefer to hear the music of nature, especially on a desert isle I imagine the waves lapping the shore, and the palms gently blowing in the breeze; the seagulls squawking as they flying over curiously and the dolphins and whales at play out in the ocean. And then I would hope for a majestic tall waterfall somewhere in the interior of my desert isle, and lots of frogs and parrots and macaws filling the air with their cheerful sounds.
I guess this is why music is so omnipresent. Because we don't need expensive instruments or trained voices in order to have the most glorious music. Certainly those things are wonderful, but the original music is the music of nature and once we have heard a piece of music that we like a couple of times, we can carry it with us in our heads from then on. It makes me a little bit sad to see young people being so addicted to high-tech sound equipment and collecting 1000's of CD's. The greatest joy of all is learning to make music and having that joy (the joy of making music) predominate the passive listening to music. But then again, maybe those that have had big success will motivate others to try for the same. It's a never-ending cycle of making music and listening to music. I just know that music has gotten me through some of the roughest times of my life, especially since the terror and trauma of September 11. My wish for us all is that we can recognize the power that music has to heal and to use it more and more in that way.
Alice H. Cash, Ph.D., LCSW
Question of the Month
Sometime I feel as though I'm a bit of a Scrooge because there's a lot of Holiday music I just don't want to hear; either I'm tired of it or it makes me feel angry like I'm being manipulated by merchants to "get into the holiday spirit whether I want to or not" and buy, buy, buy. Am I a horrible person?
E.D. in Oklahoma
A: Dear E.D.
Nearly every day I tell my patients at the hospital that no feeling is bad or wrong; it's what you do with that feeling that counts. Believe it or not, there are many people who have negative associations with holiday music and would prefer not to hear it. Luckily, there are alternative channels on the radio, stations on the TV that don't have that programming and you can always choose your own CD's. Associations are very powerful and if yours aren't particularly good, then you are smart to avoid this kind of music. You may have to do your shopping a little early, but that could be a good thing! Bravo for your insightfulness!
Your Question to the ChantDoc!
On the Road with the Chantdoc
This month I travelled to Spartanburg, S.C. to do a long-awaited two-day workshop for Spartanburg Regional Hospital System. We had an outstanding crowd on both days and listened to lots of good music as well as learned about Music in the Hospital Setting and Behavioral Health on the first day, and Music with Pediatrics and Geriatrics on the second day. The audience was filled with nurses, social workers, music therapists, chaplains and others! Please go to the web-site section entitled Testimonials to read some of the evaluations. I was quite honored and flattered by the response. I was also pleased by the number of individuals in the audience that were willing to get up and share their own personal stories of music and healing, both personally and professionally. Free books and tapes from the chantdoc were given out and I do hope to return to that area of the country in the near future!
What is it about "The Mozart Effect"?
A few years ago there was quite a bit in the newspaper and popular magazines about "The Mozart Effect." Many people believed that simply listening to the music of Mozart would raise their I.Q. and marketers went to work churning out CD's of Mozart's music for nearly every conceivable daytime and night-time task. As a professional musician and a musicologist, I had a little problem with that idea then and I still do. However, after talking with my friend Don Campbell, author of "The Mozart Effect" I do understand that he did not try in any way to mislead the public into thinking that it does. His definition of "the Mozart Effect" is simply the use of any music at all for any healing purpose at all. That's a pretty widely encompassing concept. Because I did believe in this I submitted two stories from my own music medicine practice which he did subsequently incorporate into the book. Still, confusion exists and I thought it might be helpful to elucidate a little bit on some of the original research.
It is said that Albert Einstein was a mediocre student until he began playing the violin. "Before that, he had a hard time expressing what he knew," says Hazel Cheilek, orchestra director at Fairfax County's Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, a magnet school where more than a third of the students also play or sing in musical ensembles. "Einstein said he got some of his greatest inspirations while playing violin. It liberated his brain so that he could imagine." In the early 1700s, England's King George I also felt he would make better decisions if he listened to good music. Reportedly, Handel responded by composing his Water Music suites to be played while the king floated the Thames on his royal barge. Even Plato in ancient Greece believed studying music created a sense of order and harmony necessary for intelligent thought. Can music really make us think better?
In 1993, researchers at the University of California at
Irvine discovered the so-called "Mozart Effect" - that college
students who listened to ten minutes of Mozart's Sonata
for Two Pianos in D major K448 before taking an IQ test
scored nine points higher than when they had sat in
silence or listened to relaxation tapes. Other studies have
indicated that people retain information better if they
hear classical or baroque music while studying.
The most profound effects take place in young children,
while their brains literally are growing. This year, the
same researchers at Irvine's Center for Neurobiology of
Learning and Memory found that preschoolers who had
received eight months of music lessons scored 80 percent
higher on object-assembly tasks than did other youngsters
who received no musical training. That means the music
students had elevated spatial temporal reasoning--the
ability to think abstractly and to visualize physical forms and
their possible variations, the higher-level cognition critical to mathematics and engineering.
Music students continue to outperform their non-arts peers on the SAT,
according to the 1999 "Profiles of SAT and Achievement Test Takers" from The College Board.
Students with coursework in music study/appreciation scored 61 points higher on the verbal portion of the test and 42 points higher on the math portion than students with no coursework or experience in the arts.
Students in music performance scored 53 points higher on the verbal portion and 39 points higher on the math portion than students with no arts participation.
Mean SAT Scores for Students with Coursework or
Experience in Music - 1999
Music: Study or Appreciation
No Coursework or Experience
All of this to say "you be the judge" but listening to Mozart certainly won't hurt you. My point always is that making music is preferable to passive listening and that listening to live music is always preferable to listening to recorded music. Mozart will not, repeat WILL NOT raise your I.Q. but it might help you organize your thoughts better before taking a standardized test. Dr. Alfred Tomatis, with whom Don Campbell and I have both studied and who has researched the healing benefits of Mozart's music, recommends the Five Violin Concerti above all of Mozart's other music for healing properties. Please feel free to write me with any questions you might have about Mozart or anything else related to music and healing.
IN THIS EDITION
I. Editorial: How thankful I am for music
II. Article: What is it about "The Mozart Effect"?
III. On the road with Chantdoc: workshops in South Carolina both educational and a homecoming!
IV. Ask the Chantdoc: FAQ's