Why Learn Music?

Why should people learn music, anyway? What is the purpose of it, since by itself it has no obvious function, takes significant amounts of time and effort, costs a lot of money and comes with no guarantee that one will succeed with it?

Hm, with all these potential problems how would this possibly fit into the social values common nowadays such as convenience, flash, hype, rat-race, greed, glamour and media-addiction? Well I am glad you are asking these questions!

First of all, once our basic needs are met, human beings still have an innate proclivity toward expression, and have sought to unleash this since time immemorial. Music can and certainly does fulfill this creative side of us if we work to reach at least a basic level of musical aptitude.

Music is art, culture, expression, beauty and many other aesthetic judgment calls. So it would not be out of bounds to proclaim that music for music’s sake is enough reason to do it. Beethoven would probably agree. Maybe Bach, too.

In this blog I am going to list a set of principles which are upheld by the pursuit of music.

One of the massively prescient reasons for embracing the art of music, including music education, is that the sheer number of thought processes required which have to happen at near the speed of light, (particularly when reaching advanced stages of musicianship) appear to enhance brain function. I’m not going to cite any studies here. I’ll leave that to you and Google.

In our ever faster-paced world, where we simply must remain open to learning new skills and systems, the pursuit of music serves a dual purpose. Learn to play music, and as a free bonus learn better thinking skills: synthesis, symmetry, complex organization, multi-level thinking, independence of tactile awareness through sound and touch, heightened sensitivity, changing pace while keeping it steady, measuring sound vibration and differentiating between tensions to name a few extra enhancements.

Yet when a person learns to play a bowed string-instrument, there is another added dimension to the thinking “extras” which includes engaging the left and right hemispheres with even more, and different, simultaneous processes.

One of the earlier aptitudes gained in becoming musically competent is developing the skill of reading music. Like reading a language of words, the language of notes is also transferable to other instruments. In fact music is a universal written language not only between instruments but across cultures all over the world. Like a spoken language, it isn’t limited by visual cues.

So instead of making this particular blog an exercise in describing the cerebral enhancements that would probably put you to sleep, I’m going to shorten things up and get on with my list. If you haveĀ  any additions, or would like to take the discussion further, please do comment!

PRINCIPLES SUPPORTED BY THE PURSUIT OF LEARNING TO PLAY MUSIC

Enhanced Brain Function

Reading Musical Notation

Listening In-depth

Self Expression

Working Together to Achieve a Common Good

Coordination

Connection

Community-building

Culture

Friendship

Excellence

Adaptation, or the Ability to Respond and Adapt Quickly to Change

Self-Confidence

Tolerance of Conflicting Ideas

Hope

Independence

Conformity

Aesthetics

Personality Development

Lifelong Learning

Spatial Awareness

Complex Problem-solving

Linear and Non-linear Thinking

Cultural Appreciation

Confidence

Elegance

Precision and Excellence

Managing One’s Presence

Art

Sharing Ideas

Change

Preparation with Minimal or Less Than Enough Time

Political Refuge (you never know when this might come in handy)

The brother of a friend of mine was spared from re-education in China during the 1970s when he was recruited to play the erhu in the local government’s orchestra, and my friend was on the train to follow suit when the Cultural Revolution finally ended. That’s my personal connection to including the last principle on this list.

Thoughts? Comments? Would love to read your reply. xx -Bonny