We were treated to two musical performances this past week. In one, friends who came to dinner, including our former piano teacher, performed several piano-clarinet duets in the comfort of our living room. For the second concert we bought tickets and traveled through a downpour to a theatre about 15 miles from home. The two concerts couldn’t have been more different than the two venues. The first was classical all the way. The second was called “Brazilian Jazz Meets Classical,” and featured a pianist, bass player, drummer, and violist, the latter representing the classical in the company of the other musicians playing Brazilian music in a jazz style.
Both performances were excellent. One thing I noticed about the quartet was that at certain points in every piece, all of the musicians were smiling. In what other occupation would you see all the players smiling as they worked and all at the same time? This brought back memories of taking piano lessons as an adult, while working in a hectic and stressful job, and finding that the time I spent in practice was most valuable in lowering my stress level, less so in improving my playing. I felt calm while I was at the piano because I was absorbed and focused and not thinking about projects I hadn’t completed that day or the unhappy people whose phone calls I would have to return the following day. I’m not the only one who thinks that music is beneficial to the mind and body. WebMD cites a study of college students (the guinea pigs of all psychological research) who listened to music daily and kept listening journals. The subtitle of the research report says it all: “When that music starts to play, bad moods go and good moods stay.” ScienceDaily reported on a compilation of research studies linking music training to “more gray matter in the auditory cortex of the right hemisphere in musicians compared to non-musicians,” as well as those showing the “positive effects of listening to music on cognition,” and possible enhanced affects on memory.*
My musical experiences of the week inspired me to return to the piano. March 2 will be my first lesson after about ten years. I’m not considering playing for any audience but my husband and cat (the former enjoys playing guitar and piano, and the latter leaves the room when any music is being played, which is a great relief when he’s bugging me to feed him AGAIN). I’m just looking for that few minutes a day when I’m completely engrossed in the fantasy that I’m producing beautiful sounds and my whole body is there with me.
*Blackwell Publishing Ltd. (2006, June 22). Music Thought To Enhance Intelligence, Mental Health And Immune System. ScienceDaily.