Forget everything you have heard about humans only using 10% of their brains. Nonsense. Drivel. Rubbish. Bullocks. Several other impolite words I would like to use but probably should not. Many, many studies have shown that music and language activate almost the entire brain, and because of this activation, many magical things can occur. Today, instead of a long-form post, I am going to share several short stories about how music is love, and love is music.
(I have source links in every title, so if you want to read more in-depth about what I have written about, go ahead and click)
The Himba tribe in Namibia has a rather unique way of calculating a person’s age. In this tribe, a person is born when a mother thinks of the child in her mind. When this happens, she sits under a tree and listens for the song of a child. When she has heard it, she teaches it to the man who will be the child’s husband, and they sing it together as they attempt to physically conceive the child. Eventually, everyone in the tribe learns the song. At a wedding, the tribe sings both songs of the bride and groom. As the person is dying, everyone sings the song for one last time.
Drumming her frustrations away
This next one comes from a comment someone left on my post about How and why I live my life through music. I am going to copy + paste Claire’s story verbatim, as the way she tells it needs no editing whatsoever.
I came across this entry after re-reading the entry about the many faces of depression. I have been going through the worst times of my life over the past few months, and especially the last couple of weeks. Sure, they’re peppered with good times (e.g. I love my small family, so the holidays were enjoyable), but due to an overlying cause, life is hell. Why am I putting this comment on -this- entry? Because monday, tuesday, and wednesday I had some of the worst mental breakdowns I’ve ever experienced, but wednesday night I went to a bellydance performance that a few of my friends and former/future teachers were part of. I’m okay at bellydance, still consider myself a beginner, and am afraid of improvisational bellydance. However, there were a few instances of improv drum circles. I didn’t have my own drum, so I asked to borrow someone’s. Out of… I think six drumming “sessions”, I played during five of them, and for the last I was the only drummer. I’ll admit for that “solo”, I was improv drumming along to music on the stereo, but I got a LOT of frustration and sadness out that night. And people were dancing to what I was playing! People were paying attention! It felt amazing! *I* felt amazing!
Music is my life as well, and I need to remind myself of that several times a day.
Again, thank you for sharing your story, Claire.
Up until his amnesia, Clive Wearing was a conductor, musicologist, keyboardist, and singer. However, due to an illness that attacked his central nervous system, he lost the ability to form new memories and all of his previous memories (retrograde and anterograde amnesia). Here is the truly remarkable thing: despite the fact that his memory only lasts 7 to 30 seconds, he remembers how much he loves his wife, Deborah, and he remembers how to play the piano.
Every time Deborah leaves the room for longer than 30 seconds, he hugs and kisses her as though he has not seen her in years. Sometimes, he thinks he has not seen her in years; other times, he does not know who she is, but feels nothing but tremendous love for this woman. Here is an example:
With his music, here is a quote from the article that I have linked in the title, written by Dr. Oliver Sacks:
Back in his room, I spotted the two volumes of Bach’s “Forty-eight Preludes and Fugues” on top of the piano and asked Clive if he would play one of them. He said that he had never played any of them before, but then he began to play Prelude 9 in E Major and said, “I remember this one.” He remembers almost nothing unless he is actually doing it; then it may come to him. He inserted a tiny, charming improvisation at one point, and did a sort of Chico Marx ending, with a huge downward scale. With his great musicality and his playfulness, he can easily improvise, joke, play with any piece of music.
Despite losing all his memories, his love and his passion somehow remained in his neuronal patterns, and I think that is beautiful and truly amazing.
The main symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease are involuntary muscle twitches/tremors/spasms and slowness of movement. For many people suffering with PD, simple tasks such as buttoning a shirt up in the morning or walking around can be extremely complicated. Ask some of these individuals to sing or dance, however, and watch them transform.
Music has varying degrees of success in helping these patients, but some of them show amazing improvement.
I hope that these stories show how powerful music, love, or love for music can be, and that these stories leave you with a smile or a sense of wonder on how little we truly understand about the brain and music’s effects on it.
Thank you for reading, and as always, let me know if you have any questions in the comments or in my email!
Image from Parenting4Tomorrow