--> Music From Yesterday And Tomorrow

First sound

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Music is all around us. It is a mainstay of our society and is inherent in the souls of our beings. Even in utero it is said that the fetus is able to respond to music that the mother plays or sings. Music can be found in just about every environment around us: calming or happy music in restaurants, grocery stores, doctor/dentist offices, department stores, elevators, schools, or weddings; majestic music at firework displays or parades; or even serene music at a funeral. It can be heard on almost every television commercial and in the theme of every television show. Some people crave music like a drug and just cannot live without it playing in the car and even singing in the shower.

Every person has the ability to produce music whether vocally or with a music instrument. We may not all have accurate intonation or pitch vocally or may not produce a great sound due to a difference in how we process auditory information, as Simon Cowell so blatantly points out on "American Idol", but we have the capability of producing music. With some coaching or instruction, like many of the cast members of the television show "Glee" as reported by Emile Menasche', we can deliver a powerful vocal performance.

Over time, music has developed into an extensively large variety of categories and subclasses. These can include classical, jazz, blues, swing, symphony, opera, rock, rap/hip-hop, country, folk, pop, R n B, theatre, heavy metal, Latin, techno, tango, children's, electronic, Native American, inspirational, marching band, gospel, romantic, melancholy, or spiritual. Most of these types of music have come about as a part of the changes in the structure and function of our cultures.

Music also serves to be very therapeutic. From my own experience as an occupational therapist, music helps persons with a range of different disabilities to improve function whether it may be for communication or movement purposes. For example, in working with persons who have sustained a stroke and have expressive aphasia (able to understand language, but unable to formulate the words to verbally express it), singing allows them to say what they want since this involves a different part of the brain. In working with children with autism spectrum disorders, I have found music helps develop more coordinated movement and motor planning as it provides the timing and rhythm that these children are not able to access in their brain. Any music instrument can also be therapeutic, whether it is woodwind instruments, brass instruments, or string instruments, or even just dancing to music.

But where and when did woodwind instruments originate? If we look back in history we could find out what the first woodwind instruments were. However, as the late Curt Sachs so intelligently points out, music originates back to pre-instrumental music and primitive man. He states that "all higher creatures express emotion by motion" eg. stamping his foot on the ground, slapping his body, or clapping his hands. These audible actions were the precursors to our first woodwind instruments and most likely man was not even consciously aware of sound as a separate idea.

Through archeological findings, the first true music instrument noted in history was the strung rattle which consisted of nutshells, seeds, teeth, or bones strung in cords or tied in bunches and suspended from a part of the body (ankle, knee, waist, or neck) as a means of adding sound to body movements or dancing. However, this was a delayed sound after the body movement. Later, the sound became more direct, but not exact, as gourd rattles filled with pebbles or small hard objects were shaken in tribal dances. From there, other more direct sounding instruments were developed which used the feet or hands to produce sounds eg. stampers (used stamping sticks or devices to make sound on board or bark covering hole in ground), slit-drums (stamping on hollowed out tree trunk over a pit), drums (used hands or later sticks to hit membrane stretched over opening of hollow body of any shape), friction instruments (using a tortoise shell or rounded piece of hard wood with four notches cut into it and rubbing it on palms to make a humming or squeaking noise), bull roarers (quickly whirling a thin board attached to a cord overhead making a roaring sound), and scrapers (scraping a notched stick, shell, bone, or gourd with a hard object).

The ribbon reed was the first simple music instrument to be played with the mouth like the woodwind instruments. This was just a blade of grass taken from a reed stretched between the two thumbs held side by side and by blowing into the crack the blade would vibrate with a high pitched screeching noise (what young child hasn't done this even today?). More developed civilizations rolled up a wide blade of grass spirally to form a funnel tube with the thin end of the blade crossing the upper opening. Eventually, the flute was developed which was played like most other woodwind instruments: by blowing into the air column of the tube a vibration was created and produced a specific tone. Flutes and other reed woodwind instruments have been played since the Middle Ages (476-1400) and Renaissance period (1400-1600) as they have undergone various changes in design, however, orchestral woodwind instruments are of more recent origin.

The Baroque period (1600-1750) is noted for its radical revolution in music with the need for novelty in the style of composition. There was an emphasis on strong emotion ("What passion cannot music raise and quell" sung by Dryden) requiring a wide range of sound to express passion and the sudden changes from joy to grief. Just like the Middle Ages, the monodic style of singular parts being emphasized returned to music versus the polyphonic style of the Renaissance period in which equal weight was given to all the string, brass, or woodwind instruments played in concert. To achieve this sound, woodwind instruments underwent a variety of improvements and alterations. Instead of being made from one piece of wood or other material, they were now made of two or more pieces fitting tightly together in order to be able to regulate pitch by adjusting the length. Reed woodwind instruments changed the cut of reed and the bore was changed for a smoother tone. Oboe-like instruments were dismissed and only bassoons, smaller oboes, and flutes made up the woodwind instruments of an orchestra.

Romanticism (1750-1900) created additional transformations for woodwind instruments, although the musical style was reminiscent of the 16th century. The expressive emotional music brought about a significant increase in the quantity of timbres and woodwind instruments were changed to be able to modulate from timbre to timbre with greater ease through a variety of technical enhancements. Woodwind instruments were required to have a stronger, more powerful sound in concurrence to society's change from an aristocratic to democratic culture. Overall, the arts evolved from aristocratic reserve to unrestrained passion. To advance the woodwind instruments to meet the changing musical style, technical changes were made for improved musical flexibility, fluency of tonalities, accuracy of pitch, and freer modulation. Addition of keys, position of holes, key placement, key mechanisms, key padding, and sizes of bores were altered. This created more efficient woodwind instruments that were easier to play and maneuver through the ranges. The woodwind instruments section of an orchestra now included not just the oboe, flute, and bassoon, but also the saxophone and clarinet. Families of woodwind instruments were also created eg. soprano, alto, tenor, baritone to enhance the melodies and harmonies and create a fuller sound.

The twentieth century brought about many radical changes in musical styles such as jazz, swing, pop, and rock. However, aside from the introduction of electric instruments (eg. piano, organ, stringed instruments), the amount of changes to woodwind instruments were not as great. Woodwind instruments in the twenty first century today still retain their prototype of the nineteenth century, but can be made from different metals, their mouthpieces are made of differing lengths/widths and reed sizes, and some persons prefer varying colors for their woodwind instruments.

Woodwind instruments have certainly made great strides in their evolution as cultures and societal demands have dictated. Luckily, the preference for certain sounds evolved as well. The music emanating from these woodwind instruments has become pleasurable with the ability to affect our well being deep into our hearts and souls versus the screeching and roaring sounds of some primitive instruments. Let us all enjoy the music deep within us by freely singing a song, dancing to music, or playing woodwind instruments! If you would like to pursue your musical passion or aspiration.

Musical Ear

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Many times when someone hears about someone having a strong musical ear, the concept is that the person have a skill like perfect pitch and can identify notes from memory. That type of skill can help with having a quality musical ear, but there is much more to it than that.

Having a musical ear goes beyond identifying tones. It's the ability to conceptualize music while you listen to it. The stronger the ear the more one will be able to "see" the music in their mind as it's being played.

How exactly does one get to the point of conceptualizing music?

First of all, you need to be around music. Listen to various styles of music. Play at least one instrument if not more than one. You have to start soaking up music if you ever want to learn it.

The second step to developing your musical ear is to learn the technical side of music. Music theory sometimes isn't the most exciting thing to learn. Some argue it takes the passion out of music, but that's simply not true. Even if you don't learn the technical names for everything, you still need to have at least a mental understanding of the concepts. The reason is that you will start hearing these concepts in songs you hear and will instantly understand what the musicians are doing.

Third, develop your relative pitch skill. Relative pitch is the concept of understanding the relationships between notes. For example, you hear a song but aren't sure what key the song is in, but you can hear notes from the major scale. You understand the relationship between the notes in that song. This is a very important skill to have especially if you want to improvise.

Just take your time. Nothing has to be perfect today. Gradually your skills will improve the most you work on them.

Music Therapy

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Music therapy uses music to promote positive changes in the wellbeing of an individual. These positive changes may be manifested in changes in physical development, social and interpersonal development, emotional or spiritual wellbeing or cognitive abilities.

The therapeutic benefits of music have been known and harnessed since ancient times. However, music therapy in modern times dates back to the World Wars when music was used in hospitals in the rehabilitation and recovery of soldiers who had suffered physical or emotional trauma. The University of Kansas was the first University in the United States to offer a degree program in music therapy in 1944.

Early exponents of music therapy in the 1950's to 1970's included the French cellist Juliet Alvin and Paul Nordoff and Clive Robbins. The Nordoff-Robbins approach is still used in many countries around the world including the USA, UK, Australia, Germany and South Africa.

So, how does music therapy work?

Music is universal and connects across language barriers. Most people can respond to music in some way regardless of illness or disability.

Music has an inherent ability to generate an emotional response in the listener. It stimulates a relaxation response which can therefore lead to physiological changes in the body. Music is known to reduce stress thereby producing related benefits such as lower blood pressure, improved respiration, reduced heart rate, better cardiac performance and reduced tension in muscles.

Music is processed in both hemispheres of the brain and this stimulation has been shown to help in development of language and speech functions. It promotes socialization and development of communication, self expression and motor skills. Children and adults with autism spectrum disorder have been found to respond very positively to music and many of them display high levels of musical skill.

Music encourages verbal as well as non verbal communication and promotes social interaction and relatedness. It's a valuable outlet for self expression and creativity. It has also been successfully used in pain management by providing a distraction from the painful stimulus as well as a means of relaxation and stress alleviation.

Children with developmental and learning difficulties,children and adults with autism spectrum disorder or special needs as well as the elderly and dementia sufferers have all been shown to benefit from music therapy. Although the benefits of music therapy have been accepted intuitively and based on anecdotal evidence it wasn't till recently that quantitative evidence of its efficacy started to emerge.

In a recent study conducted by the University of Miami School of Medicine blood samples of a group of male Alzheimer's patients who were treated with music therapy were found to have significantly elevated levels of melatonin, epinephrine and norepinephrine which are chemicals which act on the brain to control mood, depression, aggression and sleep. The benefits of the therapy were still evident even six weeks after cessation of the therapy and in the case of melatonin the effects persisted even longer.

Music therapy is gaining wider acceptance in the general medical community and has certainly stood the test of time. Music therapists can now be found practicing in a variety of institutions dealing with mental health, developmental and early intervention programs, correctional institutions and special education programs to name but a few. Many are having success where traditional treatment methods have failed.

Recently, we can often hear both from pediatricians and psychologists about benefits of listening to music for babies. Of course, it is not surprising at all, as already our grannies sang songs to babies, to calm them down. Are there any medical researches on this subject?

Excursus to history

THE ANCIENTS were the first who noticed a beneficial effect of music both on soul and body. They treated neural-mental illnesses with music, and tried to use it as anaesthetic in Middle Ages... But all these experiments were carried out with adults.

In the beginning of 20th century scientists already could see that it was curative for babies to listen to classical music and lullabies, that music not only develops children, but also makes them healthier.
Scientists decided to find scientific grounds of music therapy. And the first patients, who received treatment with music, were prematurely born babies.

What the researches showed

AS a rule, if a baby suffered from lack of oxygen during his prenatal development, no matter whether he is premature or not, his activity of cell ferments is lowered. After listening to classical music, activity of babies' cell ferments rose. A cytochemical analysis showed this. They also took babies' blood pressure, pulse, rhythm of breathing. And they always observed a classical reaction of adaptation: organism adjusted itself to environment and felt better.

Well, may be, children react this way to any sound irritant - alarm-clock ticking, conversation? May be, harmony and melody have nothing to do with it?

Researchers switched on a metronome for babies, which beat out a slow rhythm at a calm music pace. Babies behaved rather well: calmed down and fell asleep. But cytochemical analysis registered objectively: on the background of metronome working, an oppression of ferments took place in cells.

By the way, this is a proof of the fact that rock music with pronounced pulsatile rhythm is harmful for small babies.

When parents were going to take away their babies from hospital, doctors recommended them to continue carrying out music therapy procedures at home, along with massage, special gymnastics and exercises in water. Parents treated such advices in different ways, some of them switched on music for their babies, some of them did not.

But when a year later all these babies passed a checkup, interesting facts were discovered. Babies, who were constantly listening to classical music, coped better with neurologic defects, than the ones, whose parents did not believe in a healing power of music therapy. This way a reliable statistics appeared.

Which music should babies listen to?

EXCITABLE, fidget children should listen to melodies at a slow pace - "adagio", "andante". As a rule, second parts of classical sonatas and instrumental concerts have such pace. German scientists worked out main scientific literature on this subject, and German and Viennese classical music prevailed in their programs: Mozart, Schubert, Haydn... Later they added Vivaldi and Tchaikovski...

For example, this can be a second part of a "Short nocturnal serenade" by Mozart, "Winter" from "Seasons" by Vivaldi, a duet of Lisa and Polina from Tchaikovski's opera "Queen of spades", lullabies.

A melody with words influences babies stronger, than a melody without words. And live singing is stronger, than instrumental performance recorded on CD. A language of singing does not matter, new-born babies can gladly listen to, for example, a lullaby by Brahms or Christmas motets in German language.

And babies, suffering from syndrome of distress, who nurse badly and sometimes even breathe spasmodically, should listen to musical compositions at "allegro" and "allegro moderato" pace by Mozart, Schubert, Haydn... For example: waltzes from Tchaikovski's ballets "On troika" from his "Seasons", "Spring" from Vivaldi's "Seasons", and also martial music.

Music therapy procedures are also of benefit for healthy, normally developing children. They also should be calmed down or, on the contrary, emboldened sometimes. This can be done with the help of relaxing or energetic music.
On no account, put on ear-phones on your baby. Our ears are adjusted to diffused sound by nature. Immature brain can receive an acoustic trauma because of directed sound.

Music therapy is contra-indicated to:

- Babies with predisposition to fits.

- Babies in a serious condition, which is accompanied by organism intoxication.

- Babies suffering from otitis.

- Babies, whose intracranial pressure increases sharply.

- Rest on a cellular level

NOW parents have large selection of remedies - they can buy CD-discs with classical music in traditional performance. Or discs with classical music, arranged especially for babies. This music is accompanied by hand bells. Some may like such arrangement, other may not. You should see yourself your baby's reaction.

You can also buy CD-records of classical music on the background of sounds of nature - rote, sound of rain, murmur of the forest...
Listen to music together with your baby and relax, as restless babies' mothers just need a good rest, on a cellular level.

 
 
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