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Listen to classical music to cope with COVID-19

Music is a universal language. Music is also a healer of the soul, especially classical music. Russian writer Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) described the power of music this way: “Music makes me forget my real situation. It transports me into a state which is not my own. Under the influence of music, I really seem to feel what I do not understand, to have powers which I cannot have.” Napoleon Bonaparte understood the enormous power of music. He summed it up by saying, “Give me control over he who shapes the music of a nation and I care not who makes the laws.” Some ancient Chinese emperors measured the health of a Chinese village by the quality of the music.

Experts tell us that one of the best musical styles that can impact the nerves and physical development is classical music. Don Campbell in his book on “The Mozart Effect” stated: “From the ages of nine to eleven, auditory pathways of their speech and listening skills are being enhanced. Choral reading, poetry and varieties of pronunciation and dialect become important as the brain and auditory system begin to process the information. During this stage, the corpus callosum, the bridge between the left and right sides of the brain, completes its development, allowing both hemispheres to respond simultaneously. … Recent studies have found that the corpus callosum of musicians is thicker and more fully developed than in other people, reinforcing the idea that music enlarges existing neural pathways and stimulates learning and creativity. The planum temporale, located in the temporal lobe of the cortex, is also more pronounced in musicians. This area of the brain appears to be associated with language processing and might also categorize sounds, suggesting a perceptual link between language and music.”

Now, I am not suggesting with this quote that one should only listen to Mozart. However, I am aware that far too many limit themselves to one kind of music that has more a negative than positive impact on the brain. For example, I’ve observed that many teenagers or young adults do not like inspirational music or slow-moving music. They always want something upbeat that is hot-tempered. It is my view that the reason they do not want to stop and enjoy slow music or inspirational music is because slow music causes them to think and meditate and that is what they do not want to do. It is my view that it is best to have a variety of music styles to enrich the brain and it should include some form of light classical, traditional, or inspirational music. If you enjoy only listening to Junkanoo or Reggae music, they try including some classical or inspiration music at least once a week. It might do your heart, mind and body a great deal of good. Maybe your brain will function better and you might develop more life skills. Also, you will find it a great way to cope with the stress from the pandemic.

Note this comparison of the kind of music with longevity. Depending on the type of music one mostly enjoys it will determine one’s longevity of life. In the United States the average life span is 75.8 years. The life span for heavy rock music musicians is 36.9 years. As stated last week, the constant, very loud music and heavy rhythms impact the heart, brain and nervous system negatively. In 2009 “CBS News correspondent Larry Miller reported on a new study which charted the lives of 1,050 American and European music artists between 1965 and 2005. The study found they are more than twice as likely to die young than the general population. Statistics show that many musicians who spend long hours playing or listening to very loud music and pulsating beats die prematurely because of numerous reasons.

Some may argue it is not the music itself but the lifestyle these musicians choose to live that really causes their deaths. But the question still remains, why would so many young musicians have so many medical issues leading to death? The 1997 “The World Almanac and Book of Facts” listed all of the rock musicians who died prematurely and the cause of death. Although a little old, the facts are still revealing. There were 321 deaths listed going as far back as 1954. Here is a summary of the causes of death. Heart attack, 42; drug overdose, 40; suicide, 36; auto/cycle crash, 35; cancer, 25; airplane crash, 22; murdered, 18; alcohol, 19; brain tumor, four; electrocuted, three; fire, three.

When we compare these facts with musicians who perform gospel, sacred, classical, inspirational, soul, or easy listening music, their life spans are much longer. For example, Christian bass soloist George Beverley Shea died at age 104. Pianist Roger Williams died at age 87. Orchestra conductor Henry Mancini died at age 70. Anglo-Italian conductor Annunzio Paolo Mantovani, known as Mantovani, died at age 75; B.B. King died at age 84; Pete Seeger is 94 (still alive); Leontyne Price is 86 (still alive); Marian Anderson died at age 96; Johnny Mathis is 78 (still alive), and Engelbert Humperdinck is 77 (still alive). We can also think of many Bahamian and Caribbean musicians who have lived long lives. Maybe there is a message for us in this. The kind of music we listen to or make a major part of our lives can impact the quality and longevity of our lives.

Here are a few tips that can help you use music more effectively or therapeutically. At least weekly, try taking a 20-minute “sound bath”. Put some relaxing music on your stereo and then lie in a comfortable position on a couch or on the floor near the speakers. As often as you can, or at least once a week, choose music with a slow rhythm – slower than the natural heart beat which is about 72 beats per minute. Music that has repeating or cyclical pattern is found to be effective in most people. If you need stimulation after a day of work, go for faster music rather than slow, calming music. When the going gets tough, go for music you are familiar with, such as a childhood favorite or your favorite oldies. Familiarity often breeds calmness.

Take walks with your favorite music playing on the phone. Inhale and exhale in tune with the music. Let the music take you. This is a great stress reliever.

• Barrington Brennen is a marriage and family therapist. Send your questions or comments to question@soencouragement.org, call 242-327-1980 or visit www.soencouragement.org.

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