Music is Love is Music (The power of music)

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)

Continue reading

Warm-up/Preparatory Rituals

I find that there is something wonderfully peaceful and magical about watching someone prepare to do something, whether it is before a soccer player takes the field, a ballerina takes to the floor, a musician begins to practice, or a painter puts his or her brush to the canvas. There is almost a palpable anticipation for what comes after the warm-ups or preparations are complete because just from watching them, you know that you are in for a treat; they have had years to refine and hone not only their skill or art, but to practice their preparatory rituals as well.

Before I unpack, I put my case down and stretch – right shoulder, then left, flex and hold my right wrist for a forearm stretch, then the left. Bend and hold fingers on the right hand, do the same for the left. Shake it out, then open the case. Violin out, attach shoulder rest, remove bow from case and tighten before applying rosin. G major scale, 3 octaves, 2 notes per bow. Then 3, then 4, then 6, then 8. Then arpeggios. What comes after depends on my mood, but these parts are always the same.

Continue reading

How and why I live my life through music

“Music is love in search of a word.”

“Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music.”

Respectively, these were the words of French novelist and performer, Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, and Russian pianist and composer, Sergei Rachmaninov. These two quotes summarize my feelings about music and its impact on my daily life.

Have you ever had the chance to lie down on the floor next to a person playing a concert grand piano to feel the vibrations as well as hear the sounds? Do you get this feeling of peace and zen, a sense of om when the oboe plays an “A” and everyone begins tuning in synchrony? Sat down during an orchestral rehearsal in the auditorium, closed your eyes and just let the music wash over and through you? Do you constantly have some sort of music coursing through your head at all times? Do you feel no shame whatsoever singing Journey as you’re walking down the street? These are just a few things I do on a regular basis, and a small example of how I feel while doing some of these activities.

Music is my panacea, my place of zen, my balm. It lives in my DNA, it runs in my veins, it resides in my soul. I believe that music holds the key to many of our problems – even diagnostic medicine is looking to frequencies and tones to pinpoint ailments now! Both the acts of listening and playing help me through life. A few years ago, when I found myself unable to cry over losing someone, going to a performance of Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem unlocked something in me and allowed me to grieve. Even now, when I feel overwhelmed, angry, sad, or upset, turning to my violin, going to orchestra rehearsal, and/or playing with a friend or two causes me to focus completely and turn off all my troubles for a couple of hours, letting me channel everything into my playing. Also, ask anyone I know: I’m a nexus of music – many things that people say remind me of a song (that I’ll instantly start singing or humming in my head or out loud), or I’ll almost always be humming or singing a tune as I’m simply sitting or walking around. Music in every form holds some sort of association or poignant memory in my mind, and when I hear certain songs, it causes me to travel back in time and relive those moments as if they had just happened yesterday.

Continue reading

Musicians are Athletes too: The Professional Entertainer Debate

There is a huge rift between expectations and pay between professional musicians and professional athletes. For the sake of comparisons, when I say professional musicians, I’m referring to classical and jazz musicians as even at the peak of success, they do not make nearly as much money as popular musicians even though they put in significantly more work (I’ll go into this argument later). Similarly, regarding my definition of “professional athletes”, I will be referring to football, hockey, basketball, and all those sports that pay their players obscene amounts of money regardless of whether they win or lose.

What sparked these thoughts? I recently picked up my violin again for the first time in months. I didn’t play much because my wrist hasn’t been in the greatest shape, but Doris, if you’re reading this, be proud of me because I’ve only mostly been working on scales, etudes, and Bach. Playing the violin again reminded me of many conversations I had with musician friends throughout the years. Having spent lots of time around musicians of all sorts growing up, we all joke about growing up and living in a paper box – we only say this half-jokingly. Almost every professional musician I know has to work at least two or three jobs; sometimes those jobs have to do with music, but a lot of the time those jobs don’t. Two examples of this that immediately come to mind:

Continue reading

Classical Music Concert Etiquette – A Primer

Classical music can be very intimidating to get into. With such a large volume of music spanning centuries and many different genres, it is impossible to pick a good starting place without guidance. I will be writing an article on this at some point in the new future, but for today, let’s assume you are simply interested in attending a live classical music concert near you.

We as classical musicians are a very snobby bunch. We expect people to come into our hallowed concert halls and know exactly what to do and what not to do. The modern act of sitting down in (hopefully) completely silence in a concert hall is actually a fairly new practice – in classical music’s earlier years, it was perfectly normal to stand up, mill about, have a chat or a drink with a friend while Haydn’s latest creation was blasting behind you. This is not the case anymore and if you don’t have a friend to explain what’s going on to you, you will probably be completely as oblivious as I was when I first stepped into a concert hall myself.

Continue reading

What is Music Cognition – A Primer

Considering that the field of music cognition has only started offering Masters degrees in the past ten years or so, it is a safe assumption that not many people know a whole lot about it. Those that do encounter the term in passing may simply scratch their heads and, if someone does not help enlighten them, will simply brush it off as us silly humanities people trying to be scientific. My goal is to have you, my awesome readers, walk/click away from here with a better understanding of the field of music cognition. Rest assured, this is pure, rigorous science backed by neuroscientists, psychologists, and musicians all at once. There’s nothing touchy-feely about this research…minus the music as healing part. More on that later, of course.

Oh yes, I ought to mention that I wish to contribute research to the music psychology/cognition sub-field during my career, so that is why I’m talking about this highly fascinating subject (to me, anyways, and hopefully to you as well). I’m writing this with as little citations as needed and am drawing from my own personal knowledge and understanding. At the end, I have included links of interest related to music cognition.

So first, on to the fundamental question: what is music cognition? The term “music cognition” is an overarching term that actually covers three subdivisions: computational models of music, music psychology/cognition, and music theory. Like all fields of study with subdivisions, there is some overlap here and there in the fields. Having taken courses in all of these, I can say a few things about these subdivisions.

Continue reading

The Endless Ambient Music in Food Service

I only started working in the the food service industry this past year, but I have frequented cafes and the like for a very long time. One thing I have noticed is that the music rarely changes, if ever. Another thing I notice is that it is almost invariably annoying, too loud, or highly repetitive.

Let’s start with my first point. For those of you who don’t know me well, I basically lived in Starbucks at my university. I lived off campus and as a central, high traffic location, I used to hang out there and it had the right amount of white noise, so I studied there as well. I eventually picked up a job there as well, but there’s one thing that always ruined it for me: the music. Granted, the playlist was fairly long (about 3-4 hours apiece, I believe), but considering the amount of time I spent there on a daily basis, this is not a large amount of music. The reggae part of the playlist was alright; I once heard “Stand by me” five times in a day. However, as far as I could tell, the playlist only ever changed once every few months are so (Christmas music started playing in early November, but that’s a whole other story…I’m of the “no Christmas until after Thanksgiving” camp).

Continue reading