Music Soothes the Soul

“If a child hears good music from the day of his birth, and learns to play it himself, he develops sensitivity, discipline and endurance. He gets a beautiful heart.” –Shinchi Suzuki (1898 – 1998)

I remember when my mother encouraged me to practice my violin and how I tried to find one excuse after another to get out of it. Soon she was sitting at the piano, willing to help me practice. I reluctantly began playing, not putting my heart into it, feeling a bit rebellious. But it did not take long until I began to feel the soothing sounds of the music and my soul began to relinquish the unruly attitude within me. Why did this music have such an effect on me?

Music has changed throughout the years, but its purpose is the same. The type of music we listen to affects the brain. Some music has been proven to help memorization, to help us retain information we have learned. It has to do with order, symmetry, rhythmic patterns, repetition, ideal mathematical form, and harmony.

A study was done to test whether or not music can help in retaining information. White mice were taught to go through a maze to find food. One group listened to no music, the second group listened to Strauss waltzes, and the third group listened to hard rock music. After eight weeks, the mice were tested to see if they had improved. The mice with no music had improved but the mice that listened to Strauss waltzes made it through much faster. When the scientists checked the hard rock mice, they were not prepared for what they found. The mice did not get better in finding the food, but had gotten worse, becoming disoriented. The scientists waited a few weeks to see if the results were the same. The Strauss mice had retained their memory while the hard rock mice had lost their memory of the whole thing.

The American Psychological Association wrote, “Those dreaded piano lessons pay off in unexpected ways: According to a new study, children with music training had significantly better verbal memory than their counterparts without such training, plus, the longer the training, the better the verbal memory. Psychologists at the Chinese University of Hong Kong studied 90 boys between age six and fifteen. Half had musical training as members of their school’s string orchestra program. The other 45 participants were schoolmates with no musical training. The researchers, led by Agnes S. Chan, Ph.D., gave the children verbal memory tests, to see how many words they recalled from a list, and a comparable visual memory test for images. Students with musical training recalled significantly more words than the untrained students. There were no such differences for visual memory.” (“Music Training Improves Verbal but Not Visual Memory,” American Psychological Association, Neuropsychology, Vol. 17, No. 3.)

C. A. Harding did brain studies in 1982 at the University of North Texas. They brought in 300 people. They wanted approximately the same kind of learning abilities, so everyone they chose had PhD’s. These people were separated into two groups and taught 300 vocabulary words. The first group listened to Handel’s Water Music as they learned the words and definitions. The second group learned their words without music. To the surprise of the scientists, there was a big difference in the test scores. The group with the music scored much higher. Two weeks later, the groups were brought back in and checked to see if they had retained the words, and there was a much bigger difference in the scores. The group without music had forgotten half the words. In the first group, the brain must have felt the orderly manner of the music and was able to retain the vocabulary words.

I read an article in the Time Magazine titled “Fingers, Brains, and Mozart.” It said, “Mozart’s music has intrigued researchers since 1993, when scientists at the University of California at Irvine found that college students who heard ten minutes of the composer’s Sonata for Two Pianos in D major raised their IQ scores on tests of spatial-temporal reasoning—a skill related to math. Mozart appears to strengthen the neural connections that underlie mathematical thought. Other researchers have used the two-piano sonata to improve the spatial-temporal reasoning of an Alzheimer’s patient and to reduce the number of seizures in epileptics.” (“Fingers, Brains, and Mozart,” Time Magazine, July 5, 1999.)

It has been found that music can change behavior. The right kind can turn depression into joy, anger to calmness, hate to love, and fear to courage. Beautiful music has an effect on people and it can soothe and take away feelings of frustration and anger. Music definitely makes a difference in alleviating tension.

Professor Vladamir Conechne tested this theory. He paid actors to antagonize a group of people, making them angry and hateful. After the actors left, he turned on gentle soothing music and watched the people carefully as he took notes. He noticed that their behavior and attitude began to change and their hatred left.

In another part of the country, this theory was proved once again. At the Soviet Union, the Soviets used music to rescue 3,000 Beluga Whales trapped in the Narrow Strait off the Bering Sea. Icebreakers had cleared an escape path for the whales, but they were confused and frightened by the noise of engines and propellers that had chopped the ice away. It finally dawned on the captain to pipe music through the loud speakers. When the whales heard Beethoven’s music, they began to calm down and after a while followed the sound, swimming through the narrow channel to freedom. The music calmed them down.

One time our little family traveled many hours to see our folks up north for Christmas. It was an eight-hour drive, counting all the rest stops. My six children were tired and miserable from the long drive. We were traveling through beautiful Sardine Canyon in northern Utah and only had a half hour left to arrive at our destination. When I heard my children complaining, I knew I had to do something.

“Mom! She’s touching me.”

“Mom! She’s crowding me.”

“Mom! Tell her to stop looking at me.”

I muttered under my breath, “Mom! She’s breathing my air…” Then it dawned on me. I had a solution to my problem. I started singing some Christmas songs, and then my husband joined in. Soon the rest of the family joined in singing and the contention gradually left and we were laughing and having fun as we joyfully sang “Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer” and many Christmas Carols. Music does make a difference.

David O. McKay said, “Music is truly the universal language, and when it is excellently expressed how deeply it moves our souls!” (President David O. McKay, in Conference Report, Apr. 1945, 119)

In 1865, during the Civil War in Atlanta, Georgia, General Sherman had his army ready and prepared for a battle. It was recorded that while they waited, a young man began to sing American Songs…beloved songs that were familiar on both sides. The music was soothing and nostalgic, and it floated across the field for everyone to hear. The soldiers on both sides heard the songs that were sung. The hearts of everyone were touched, and the battle that was supposed to be did not occur that day. No one felt like fighting. The songs had deeply moved their souls.

In 1945 in the South Pacific, a similar experience happened in the trenches. Every night there was an attack at midnight. They would hear the footsteps of the enemy just before battle. There were many wounded and it was Christmas Eve. Midnight approached and everyone listened carefully for the sound of footsteps. Then something happened that changed the mood of every soldier. A man in a trench decided to sing, “It Came upon the Midnight Clear.” After he finished, he sang another Christmas Song, and then another and another. As he sang “Silent Night,” not a sound was heard. The hearts of the enemy were softened, and there was no battle that night, but complete silence.

Years ago, there was a quarrel between two old friends over some business affairs and they couldn’t seem to reconcile their differences. The only way to get justice was to talk to one of their leaders and ask for his advice.

When the men arrived, John Taylor said, “Before I hear your case, I would like to sing a hymn.”

The men agreed and listened as he sang from his heart. After he was through, he told them that he wanted to sing another one. After singing the second song, he said, “I have heard there is luck in odd numbers, so with your consent I would like to sing another one.”

After he was done, he said, “Now, brethren, I do not want to wear you out, but if you will forgive me, and listen to one more hymn, I promise to stop singing, and will hear your case.”

When John Taylor had finished the fourth song, the hearts of the men were so touched that they asked to be excused, and were sorry for having called upon him and for taking up his time. (Heber J. Grant, Improvement Era, 43, Sept. 1940; 522)

Beautiful music can soothe and take away feelings of frustration and anger. John Taylor didn’t have to give advice to the men after he sang to them. The music had soothed their souls. Many times music can be more effective than words.

It is vitally important to listen to music that uplifts us. When words and music are combined, it expresses our deepest thoughts. What we can’t understand in words, we can understand with music. Words alone, many times, can’t express the true feelings that are meant, but music and words put together can touch the hearts and souls of people. When music is added to sacred words, it helps us to understand the simple love of God and feel the spirit of reverence.

J. Reuben Clark, Jr. said, “We get nearer to the Lord through music than perhaps through any other thing… except prayer.” (President J. Reuben Clark Jr., in Conference Report, Oct. 1936, 111)

How much does music play a part in our lives? I believe that music goes beyond the spoken language. When words don’t seem enough or when we can’t express our feelings in the right way, we can listen to a song and say, “That’s exactly how I feel.”

 

Written by Linda Weaver Clarke, author of sweet romances, mystery/adventure novels, and cozy mysteries. Make Believe: www.lindaweaverclarke.com

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