Ubiquitous. That four syllable word describes how music permeates our world. It is everywhere – in every culture, in schoolrooms, at sporting events, in parades, on radios, ipods and mp3 players, in grocery stores or markets, on street corners, in religious institutions and health care clinics, in concert halls, dance studios and theatres. Music accompanies us on the journey, through life passages, through sickness, through health.
Music has a capacity to reach into every human domain and improve our quality of life through stimulation, social integration, communication, expression and daily routine. Music is a powerful medium.
Music can be used to evoke wide ranges of either calming or stimulating physical responses. Research has shown that music can affect blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, pupil dilation, discomfort and tolerance to pain. Music can affect our mood, our stress levels, match our emotional responses.
Music has a tremendous capacity to connect people, through shared events, feelings or ideas. Music may be a key in motivating participation and developing camaraderie. Relationships may be developed or enhanced through the use of music.
Music triggers memories which may include pleasant or unpleasant life events. Music makes associations. These associations may be with times, places or people and may evoke emotions, visual images or other sensory information, including perceptions of flavors, odors, textures, temperatures, comforts and discomforts. The associations we make with music may also help to provide meaning in our lives.
No matter your age, being musically active enhances quality of life and well-being. Here are some ways you can stay musically active for a lifetime.
- Join a choir. Sing.
- Take a dance class. Move.
- Make a playlist of 10 songs that stimulate you. Play.
- Make a playlist of 10 songs that calm you. Relax.
- Go to a live concert. Enjoy.
- Find gentle soothing music and take a music bath before bedtime. Soak.
- Listen to a new piece of music. Explore.
- Learn to appreciate a new style of music. Expand.
- Pick up an instrument. This may include taking lessons or rejuvenating old skills. Learn.
- Join a drumming circle. Release.
- Choose a lifesong, a song that expresses who you are, the values you believe in, that would in fact be a musical epitaph. Reflect.
- Join a songwriting circle. Create.
The great American composer Aaron Copland said, “So long as the human spirit thrives on this planet, music in some living form will accompany and sustain it and give it expressive meaning.” Music is a gift for the journey. Receive it and let it do its work.
Bev Foster, B.Ed., B.Mus., ARCT, AMus, is an experienced musician and music educator. As founder and Executive Director of the Room 217 Foundation, a not-for-profit corporation and registered Canadian charity dedicated to music and care, Bev travels widely to perform and speak. Find out more about Bev and Room 217’s therapeutic music products at www.room217.ca.