Sunday, January 14, 2024

The Power of Music

The other night we watched the movie “Maestro” about Leonard Bernstein, which had me thinking about music that I love and not necessarily Bernstein’s music. Then to my surprise, I found a Missive by the same name written over a decade ago. I have written about music every now and then and if you go to my Missives page and put music in the search box you can scroll down through them.

My takeaway from the current movie is how difficult it is to be married to a man who is possessed by his profession, in this case, music, and a homosexual at the same time.

I also found the film rather depressing, but I was seeing it from the perspective of a 79-year-old. After that, I went to YouTube and listened to Peggy Seeger singing “All in the Mind”. There is no direct correlation, but the film sparked that emotion in me. 


“Maestro” might strike a totally different chord for you but that is the point. On the Pfizer website, I found this, “Listening to (or making) music increases blood flow to brain regions that generate and control emotions.” taken from an article by L. J√§ncke, L. (2008). Music, memory, and emotion. Journal of Biology.

After seeing a good movie, it tends to live on in my head. This dates back to when I was a child in the late 1940s and ’50s. Those were the days when the Westerns were the hit movies. After seeing High Noon (1952) with Gary Cooper I came out of the theater imagining a six gun on my hip singing the theme song and that song would be triggered by other Western movies. 

The same happened with the Gene Autry television show where the theme song was “Back in the Saddle Again”. 


In an article in “The Back Stage” (November 2021), Deezer D. writes that scientists Schulkind, Hennis, Rubin, and Professor Ira Hyman state, “a song triggers an emotion that matches the emotion felt at the time the event happened. To evoke memories, sensations need precise connections.”

Speaking with a psychiatrist who recommended meditation I told him I sometimes plugged into music. He agreed that too could work. Shahram Heshmat Ph.D. wrote in “Psychology Today” (October 2021), “Music provides a means of escape. Music distracts our minds from the outside world.”

We all enjoy different kinds of music. My father was a classical music buff, I have about 15 feet of his vinyl! As a child and teenager, I was exposed to all kinds of classical concerts and opera. It came to the point where I went because I felt it was the right thing to do. My father would refer to the “hit tunes” in an opera, but always with the caution to stay until the end because one of those “hit tunes” was in the final act. From Verdi’s La Traviata by the 3 Tenors. 


A psychologist once told me that 50% of people who live past 90 have Alzheimer’s and the famed singer, Tony Bennett, who died last year at age 96 suffered that fate. Yet, he remembered and could still perform the songs he had made hits.

To answer the doubters, from the “Psychology Today” article mentioned above, “However, not everyone experiences intense emotional responses to music. Roughly 2 percent of the general population do not experience chills. This incapacity to derive pleasure specifically from music has been called musical anhedonia (sometimes called tone-deafness).”

Unfortunately, they are missing a lot!

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