music and the brain

07/24/2016 - article

More and more information is becoming available on the enormous boost that happens in brain development of a child if they are exposed to music study at a young age. I've recently had the oppotunity to visit the home of my parents, kept in a wonderful state of looking the same as if they had still been living in it. Complete with childhood memories, scrapbooks, and the piano we practiced when growing up, it really occurred to me how much of an advantage my brain had as a child by being exposed to learning to read music and playing at such a young age. (4 years old)

And yet, school systems are still cutting music out as a means of cost saving...and trodding on the very thing they're trying to do: educate young minds. Those minds need the balanced two-sided brain learning that you get with music so that they can develop more fully. Research indicates that the corpus callosum of a child who has studied a keyboard instrument before the age of seven or eight years of age can be up to 15% larger than that of a child who has not studied music at that age. And the interesting thing is, that growth remains regardless of whether the child decides to stop studying piano when they get to high school.

Here's an article that shows some research from USC on how the process works..

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06/21/2015 - article

After attending a brilliant pedagogy conference several years back, I came home and told my husband that pianists don't have normal brains. His comment was, "You paid money for that?" Yes, pianists do have brains that have stretched and grown around the art. Click here for another fun article in Music.Mic digital magazine talking about the science of some of this!

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05/20/2014 - thoughts on Synaesthesia and music

Synaesthesia is a condition resulting from a sensory mix-up such that the individual can actually see sound and hear color or other variations of sensory turnaround. The french composer Olivier Messiaen was afflicted with this disorder, one has to wonder whether he considered it a gift or a curse. Surely his output of music is a gift to the world, but having this affliction his entire life must have been a difficult burden for him at times at at other times it must have given him an amazing view of the world.

During his incarceration in a WWII prisoner of war camp, Messiaen was inspired to write one of his greatest works, the Quartet for the End of Time. As he would write later in his life, some of the natural influences on the Quartet (in addition to the biblical book of Revelations) included gazing out over the rolls of barbed wire fencing and catching glimpses of the aurora borealis over the trees...and with all that beauty laid out before him in such harsh conditions he heard the sound of the color it all made. Birds would join in with this wonderful aural texture for him, and he created a very unique symphony of sound from it all.

Nature's symphony of sound resulted in another very famous work of Messiaen's, the Catalogue D'oiseaux, a seven volume piano work which musically describes the sounds of seventy-seven distinct birds in over three hours of solo piano music. One has to wonder with such incredible works as the Quartet and the Catalogue D-oiseaux, if Messiaen would have been able to product such incredible works if his sensory system hadn't somehow misfired and resulted in his synaesthetic condition.

Messiaen's own description of his condition is as follows: " When I was 20 years old I met a Swiss painter who became a good friend by the name of Charles Blanc-Gatti, he was synaethesiac which is a disturbance of the optic and auditory nerves so when one hears sounds one also sees corresponding colours in the eye. I unfortunately didn't have this. But intellectually like synaethesiacs I too see colours- if only in my mind - colours corresponding to sound. I try to incorporate this in my work, to pass on to the listener. It's all very mobile. You've got to feel sound moving. Sounds are high, low, fast, slow etc. My colours do the same thing, they move in the same way. Like rainbows shifting from one hue to the next. It's very fleeting and impossible to fix in any absolute way.

It's true I see colours, it's true they're there. They're musician’s colours, not to be confused with painter's colours. They're colours that go with music. If you tried to reproduce these colours on canvas it may produce something horrible. They're not made for that, they're musicians colours. What I'm saying is strange but it's true.
I believe in natural resonance, as I believe in all natural phenomena. Natural resonance is in exact agreement with the phenomena of complimentary colours. I have a red carpet that I often look at. Where this carpet meets the lighter coloured parquet next to it, I intermittently see marvelous greens that a painter couldn't mix - natural colours created in the eye"

Surely, overall, this condition was a gift to such a great musician.