Today is Record Store Day. For one day out of the year, people will be setting down their MP3 players and heading to their local participating music shop for freebies, exclusives and other promotional goodies. It’s a grand annual pilgrimage to vinyl Mecca, but why only today? Why not everyday? Music is far too important a creative art to be granted but one day in the sun per year. That MP3 player you’re enjoying? Someone obviously thought music was important enough to take with you everywhere. Let’s explore a few reasons why.
The Abstract Muse
The rhythms of music are perhaps the most abstract art forms. You can’t see them, but they move us physically and emotionally. We can all put on a song and remember our prom, first kiss or favorite concert. Music may do more than that. A 2013 study goes further, suggesting that music can actually help memory recovery in individuals suffering from a traumatic brain injury. Language is an abstraction. Through the use of symbols and sounds, we convey messages and meanings. Research also indicates music may augment language acquisition. In a pbs.org article, the executive director of the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM), Mary Luehrisen, states, “When you look at children ages two to nine, one of the breakthroughs in that area is music’s benefit for language development, which is so important at that stage.” Is the most abstract of arts giving the ‘abstract’ part of our brains a great workout?
Music Stave Over Hospital Staff?
It’s Monday night, and you just got back from work. You know you have to go to the gym, but you are really not looking forward to it. The solution may just be to put together that perfect playlist. A 2009 study posted on the website of The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) demonstrates that individuals on treadmills kept one foot going in front of the other just a little bit longer than control groups who were not listening to some tunes. Music is also utilitarian for artists. Dancers and visual artists alike enhance their performances with musical accompaniment. What persuades the mind may in fact impel the body to heal. A 2008 Finnish study advances that proposal, after finding stroke patients exposed to music in key stages were seen to have improved mood and attentiveness. Like all good art, Music gets us back in touch with ourselves.
We take comfort in knowing who we are, and music has always been a banner of identity. Every culture has its unique rhythm, every tribe marches to a different song. While pre-teens and teens turn to music as a building block to their selfhood, our association with music follows us as adults. Music is not just a personal statement or defining characteristic: it holds the power of community. One needn’t go to a concert to feel that sense of community (though I wholeheartedly recommend it.) While visiting Howard Stern’s show in 2007, musician Chris Cornell got a reminder of what power music holds. Both Stern sidekick Artie Lange, and a fan who was awarded a studio sit-in during the show, discussed music’s power to feel like someone in your corner when things get tough. Lange related his difficult time in rehab, and mentioned that Cornell’s song “Blow Up the Outside World” encapsulated the contempt Lange felt for his ‘captors’ while he was in a sanitarium. After the fan elaborated his sentiments regarding how music saw him through tough times, Cornell summarized, “It’s realizing that someone else thinks the same way you do, when you might have thought you were the only person in the world [that had that happen.]”
Music is a powerful art. It has the power to move us. It may have the power to heal us. It sets us apart. It brings us together. And, oh yes: sometimes it’s just damn fun. If I don’t see you in line for Record Store Day, I had better bump into you listening to your MP3 player on the run.