So many outside factors can affect our emotions, such as movies, friends, books, television shows, something someone says, or even food. One of these factors is obviously music. Even without words, music can make us joyful or depressed, energized or sleepy.
Think of the last time a song really moved you, or meant something to you. Listening to and playing music stimulates many different sections of the brain, affecting us physically as well. Why are we as humans so connected to music?
Making music is one of our most basic instincts. There’s a reason we refer to music as the “universal language”; there has been no known human culture without music. Dancing and music came before agriculture, and possibly even before language. Bone flutes were found in Europe dating back 53,000 years ago. The head of the Biomusic program at the National Academy of the Sciences, Patricia Gray, and her colleagues comment, “The fact that whale and human music have so much in common even though our evolutionary paths have not intersected for 60 million years suggests that music may predate humans-that rather than being the inventors of music, we are latecomers to the musical scene.” (Leutwyler)
Music and Childhood
We begin life being affected by music; babies first begin to respond to music while still in the womb. Whether or not it’s true, everyone has heard that playing classical music for your baby supposedly helps him or her become smarter. A study done in the United Kingdom concluded that children are able to recognize and even prefer music that they had heard while in the womb up to three months before birth. Although the genera of music made no difference, the babies who were exposed to songs with a faster tempo showed a stronger preference for that song than those who had heard something slower. (”Babies Remember Music Heard in the Womb”) Researchers have also found that the playing of soft background music or a mother’s humming actually helps premature babies. Those who are subjected to the music tend to gain weight faster and are able to leave hospitals earlier than those who aren’t. (Cromie, “Music on the Brain”)
However, the study in the UK uncovered no links between babies listening to music and increased intelligence or brain development. Another experiment at the University of California at Irvine compared the puzzle-solving abilities of 3-year-olds who were given piano lessons with the ability of others who sang, used computers, or did nothing. The children studying piano were better at the puzzles. Also, high school students with a musical background seem to do better on their SATs. (Cromie, “How Your Brain Listens to Music”) Whether it’s natural intelligence that helps the children excel in both music and math, or the music that helps develop other areas, you can’t deny the benefits of a musical background.