Music is all around us every day, whether it’s the pop song on your iPod, the birds chirping outside, or the gentle beat of rain on the roof. It’s a powerful force, even, dare I say…supernatural?
The antagonist in my current WIP (which isn’t even *gasp* paranormal) is a musician, so I’ve been thinking a lot about music, more than I usually do. Music is one of my great joys in life, right up there with reading and writing my own stories, and if I’d inherited more natural skills at it, I might’ve traded my pen for a violin. But alas, my musical triumphs include a two-week stint at first chair flute in middle school and being the highlight pianist for my music teacher’s recital one year in high school (and perfectionist that I am, I practiced 24-7 so I wouldn’t make a fool of myself). And that was the problem. I had to practice my patooty off just to be on the upper crust of mediocre. So after a few tantrums and growling rants covering the injustices of life and genes, now music plays second fiddle to my other love, the written word.
Even if my DNA neglected the natural music skills I’d prefer, music is meant to be celebrated, and here are a few reasons why you should never regret spending time with your instrument of choice, belting it out (shower optional) or blasting your favorite rock song.
Listing to music kicks chronic pain in the ass. Up to 21%. And if you're hooked by the winter blues, music can reduce depression by 25%. The song tempo is key, so pump up the jam, people.
Join the Smarty-Pants Club
Research confirms that listening to music or playing an instrument improves learning, and listening to whatever music floats your boat positively affects cognition. Did you know that Mozart’s music (at least the ones with 60 bpm) activates the left and right brain? Good thing for learning and remembering. Working both sides of the brain at the same time kicks everything into gear. How many of you learned their ABCs in song form, huh? Exactly. And if you’ve already mastered your skills, listening to music while you’re working has a magical way of improving performance.
Work It, Sister
Need motivation to lose that extra holiday weight? Upbeat music drives you to work out harder and longer. Sure, it can help take your mind off your struggles and add a fun factor, but studies have also shown that listening to music with a beat faster than your movement also helps your body use oxygen more efficiently. Weird, huh?
Dr. Feel Gooooooood
Listening to music can trigger the brain’s “reward center”, resulting in hits of the chemical dopamine. Dopamine opens the door to pleasure, “the feeling of euphoria which is associated with addiction, sex, and even eating.” In other words, music = oh yeah. Music also may affect oxytocin levels in the body, a neuropeptide connected to bonding and sexual contact. And now you know why girls go gaga for ugly as sin rock stars.
It’s All About Connection, Baby
I’m sure this has happened to everyone—you meet someone who loves the same obsolete band as you and BAM! Instant connection, right? There’s research that suggests music arose from a human’s need to connect. Music impacts our ingrained empathy, trust, and cooperation, and when you’re singing along at a music concert, you don’t need to know the name of the person dancing next to you to feel a bond. Also, coordinating movement with another person (as in dancing) releases endorphins, making you feel all warm and fuzzy.
And in my ever twisting writer’s brain, I learned a few facts that may come into play for some of my more villainous characters down the road:
Your heartbeat mimics the music you’re listening to.
An “earworm” is that song you can’t get out of your brain.
Music can unite in a negative way too…some believed that Wagner’s music played a role in Hitler’s propaganda schemes. Scary, huh?
Use your musical powers for good, people.
In signing off, here’s a video from Lindsey Stirling, one of my two favorite violinists (I have an equal love for the phenomenal David Garrett). Not only does she play the violin while freakin’ dancing, she also performs the Assassin’s Creed III theme song. Instant girl crush. I was lucky enough to see her in concert last summer (best birthday present ever...although if someone wants to take me to Europe this year to see DG in concert, that might be even better *hint, hint*).
Before you leave, what’s your favorite music? Let’s bond!