Music is part of our lives whether we realize it or not, whether we actively participate in it or not, whether we appreciate its power or not. This is, in fact, the real power of music ? that it can affect us whether we are aware of it or not. We need only think of the music heard on the soundtrack of most movies. We may be aware of the action and the dialogue, the scenery, costumes and special effects, yet music is supporting it all and guiding the emotional context. In the best films, music is an active team player, but in the worst of films, sometimes the music is the only thing holding the story together. So important is music to film that studio executives sometimes watch “rough cuts” with a temporary music track, even before the actual score is written, to get a feel for how a particular scene will play over it.
Film is just one example. Television programs also have musical underscores. Many commercials use “jingles” to help sell their products ? these are tunes we “just can’t get out of our heads.” Result: we remember the product! Radio provides music 24 hours a day, seven days week, in every style imaginable. We buy our favorite music in record stores. Finally, there is live music, be it school friends with a guitar during the lunch break, a nightclub with just a few tables, a religious service with a choir and instruments, or a large concert or giant arena where thousands are gathered to share in the experience of music making.
In prehistoric times, before our ancestors became masters of our world, life was mostly random and patternless, except for the seasons. Even they couldn’t be counted on to produce rain, snow or sun at regular intervals. As fire was harnessed, as social order and language developed, as tools improved, the rhythms of life assumed a greater organization. Emotions developed as well ? from basic animal traits of pleasure and fear, contentment and anger ? into a much more complex system. Once the basic need to survive had been adequately addressed, humankind was suddenly freed in small measure to become introspective, and to contemplate its own existence.
Music was undoubtedly the accompaniment to all these discoveries. Imagine the first baby to hear its mother sing a lullaby. Imagine the first field workers to chant in rhythm as they planted or harvested. Imagine sitting around their campfires, celebrating the success of the day’s hunt or lamenting the lack of rain. Before drums or flutes, before cave paintings, before basket weaving and clay pot painting, there was the human voice, capable even in earliest times of a vast range of expression. Somewhere, deep in our souls or collective unconsciousness, there is the sound of our own identity, of our connection to the universal power, which music amplifies to our great satisfaction. Whether we are aware of it or not.
So why should music play such an important and integral role in our lives? As it turns out, research over the last few decades has increasingly shown that music, and in particular the singing and playing of music, helps the brain develop much more fully and extensively, especially in our early years. Music makes us brighter, more intelligent, more logical, more rational, and more capable. It improves study habits and test scores. It builds a better sense of self and community. It aids in our general sense of well-being and improves our quality of life. At times, it brings us closer to the divine in all of us. A recent study even suggests that the act of singing improves the immune system. To answer a question with a question: Why shouldn’t music play an important role in our lives?
Given what music can do for all of us, but especially for children, it is imperative that we work to offer opportunities for children to become exposed to music, and to begin to understand what makes it work and why. This is why Los Angeles Chamber Singers is so committed to educational outreach and so appreciative of the Shumei Arts...
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