It has been established that in fact the infant is aware of sound from the 24th week. " in the sonic foreground of this sound environment is what has been described within the literature as a 'rhythmic "swooshing" of the blood as it rushes through the placental vessels" (Collins and Kuck, 1990, p.24).
Some of the most significant findings about the affect and importance of music on the human mind can be gleaned from research on early child development and the role of music. This can also be extended to research into the "... relationships between an adult's personal history and musical preferences" (Bunt, 1994, p. 131).
There are many studies in the field of child developmental psychology that link music to growth and development of the young mind. Van Der Linde, (1999) notes that "Plato remarked as early as 300 BC that music was the most powerful educational aid... Children have a natural inclination to sing and play, and these activities form a vital part of their development" (Van Der Linde, 1999, p. 610).
As many other studies have noted," Babies and small children find music and play almost inseparable activities" (Bridges, 1994, p. 36).
With regard to the central issue of the way that music affects the mind, the research into early psychological development is very instructive in terms of the way that music affects the perception and understanding of the world around us. In the first instance music has been found to be important in the stimulation and shaping of various mental activities. "Play and music are important for the development of children's mental capacity and intellect." (Van Der Linde, 1999, p. 610)
Music has also been found to be important in that it is seen as an vital component in language- building and competence. As Van Der Linde, (1999) notes, "....Games accompanied by songs in a second language can extend the vocabulary of the child in that language" (p. 610). Experts also note the connection between music and mathematical skills and development. At early stages of the child's development it has been found that, "Singing games...are extremely helpful in enabling the child to understand how to count. Although music and movement occur spontaneously in children, the process is not so simple as it seems, because it involves a capability to distinguish the various components of music" (Maxim, 1989, p. 289).
Another aspect that is important in the way that music affects the mind in the crucial early stages of development is that research indicates how different types and styles of music have various influences on the mind. For example, research on Baroque music has found that when this category of music is played to children who are involved in activities requiring concentration that memory improves by almost thirty-percent. (Van Der Linde, 1999, p. 610) in this regard it is suggested by researchers that baroque music in fact simulates both the right and left hemispheres of the brain through its alpha rhythms. (Van Der Linde, 1999, p. 610)
Research has also found that there is a relationship between the development of music competency and Piaget's cognitive stages.
The positive influence of music on the growing child is clearly stated by psychologists such as Swanepoel, quoted in Van Der Linde, (1999); the use of suitable music can have a positive effect on small children, especially children from two to six years old, when the front brain lobes are growing the fastest. Concentration games during this period can thus enhance cognitive development. (Van Der Linde, 1999, p. 610)
Another example is from a South African psychologist who studied the interaction between child development and suitable types of music and found that children between the ages of two and six are particularly susceptible to the positive effects of music at the stage when their front brain lobes are developing rapidly. (Van Der Linde, 1999, p. 610)
Educationist have also established that music is important in learning to deal and interact with the adult world
With the aid of records of operas and orchestras, groups could match body movements to music and mimic the singers and orchestra. In this way small children learn and experience the music together with the "real" singers and the orchestra. Through play and movement children demonstrate what they hear: an excellent way of becoming aware of the rhythm and character of music, and a dynamic way of learning. (Van Der Linde, 1999, p. 610)
From a psychological point-of-view music is also influential in terms...
Van Der Linde (1999) notes that "Play and music can also help the child to master his or her physical self, which helps to improve self-confidence and leads to a better self-image" (Van Der Linde, 1999, p. 610).
Another aspect that is often mentioned is that music is extremely important in creating imaginary worlds that are necessary for the development of creativity and play - which in turn is essential for the psychological balance and mental homeostasis as well as the healthy development of the child. "Play and music create an imaginary world in which a child can master a myriad of skills and develops an understanding of his or her environment that would otherwise have been impossible" (Van Der Linde, 1999, p. 610).
The above are only a few examples of the way that music influences the mind during the crucial developmental stages. This also implies that exposure to music at an early age is important for later developmental stages and psychological growth in adulthood. An aspect that should be continually borne in mind is the complexity of the way that music influences the mind. This is explored in depth by Wallin, (1991) in a work entitled iomusicology: Neurophysiological, Neuropsychological, and Evolutionary Perspectives on the Origins and Purposes of Music.
The author makes the important point that;
Music systems are multifactorial. They are, on the one hand, limited by physical characteristics of the tonal material's infrastructure; on the other hand they are selected and further developed by the complicated and complex organism called "man," who is, in turn, under the influence of manifold environmental forces. Thus, changes in the individual piece of music, as well as in music as historical concept, are under the constraints of a great and varied number of instructions and influences, a wealth of value systems and normative modes, of which some are intrinsic, others extrinsic.
Wallin, 1991, p. 1/2)
The above extract is quoted at length as it serves to focus in an essential aspect of the way that music and mind interact; namely, that this interaction is influenced by and coterminous with many other facets and variables, including cultural influences and perceptions.
An extremely significant aspect of the way that music influences and affects mind has been gleaned for research into 'wellness' and music therapy. The term music therapy refers to;
therapeutic or rehabilitation-aimed treatment which uses music and its components (melody, rhythm, vocal and instrumental performance, and so on) to stimulate the patient to heighten his perception, his ability to use speech/language, motorics, socialization and, last but not least, to open up to his unconscious self, so helping to resolve psychic conflicts through catharsis. (Padula, 2006)
Music has been used effectively in recent years in the growing discipline of music theory.
As Bunt (1994) notes, "In a music therapy session there is the potential to become an integrated part of the music, to move aside into a world beyond the verbal and physical" (Bunt, 1994, p. 2) Furthermore,
Everyday communication may be hampered by physical, intellectual, social or emotional problems. In music therapy we can understand more about such difficulties by observing how people respond to and make music. We can observe people becoming actively engaged in exploring a wide range of musical forms, improvisation being a key element of the work in this country. (Bunt, 1994, p. 2)
As Bunt and other therapists point out, music has the ability to transcend or go beyond verbal expressing and therefore allow for forms of expression that often cannot be accessed through logical or rational linguistic means. This has provided the therapist with an invaluable tool in dealing with mental health issues and problems.
5. Music and you - How music can change life for the world and you.
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