Thursday, January 31, 2013

Week 3- The Music Instinct

This week we watched The Music Instinct which delved into the effect of participating in music on the brain and the body.  In that documentary and in the reading, we heard from Evelyn Glennie, a profoundly deaf percussionist.  In our class discussions, we discussed the effects of music on the whole person from the perspective of the question of the purpose of music.

What struck a chord with me the most was hearing the biological and mental effects that music has people; and therefore the human experience.  It occurs to me that music has the power to express things that we as humans may not necessarily be able to put into words.  It has a way of articulating not only what is the most beautiful of our emotions but also the most uncomfortable horrible emotions that a human can feel all in one piece of music.

It occurs to me that this is why it has such a profound effect on us.  It is said that music has the ability to promote feelings of calm or agitation; fear or relax; serenity or elation.  Evelyn Glennie talked about an autistic boy who had no control over the muscles in his body and had to be restrained most of the time.  She described how this same boy that had to be restrained because of the lack of control that he had over his own muscles was somehow calmed down to a state of physical rest just from lying on the floor and feeling the vibrations of her playing the marimba.

She talked about how as a profoundly deaf musician; people don't really understand how it is that she is able to play so well and understand music so well.  She responds very matter of factly; stating that the same way that someone who is profoundly deaf cannot completely describe how it is that they hear; she also cannot; however they both have access to the idea of "hearing" the music. She points out that essentially how humans hear is mainly through vibrations; which she can feel as well. She just relies more on the vibrations in her feet and arms and hands than in her ears as we who hear do.

It's interesting that as people that study music we spend so much time trying to get everything exactly correct and exactly as we think the composer would have intended for it to sound; and how much that has a tendency to take away from the art of experiencing the music and actually feeling the music.

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