Music is good for your soul – and your health | Moment's Notice
Last updated 6/8/2023 at 2:30pm
"After silence, that which comes closest to expressing the inexplicable is music." – Aldus Huxley
There is something about a good song. It transports you to a place in time, a feeling, or even changes your mood.
This past week began what I am calling my Summer of Music, beginning with the incomparable Duran Duran and then the Cure the very next night. We have nine concerts on the calendar this summer so far, some here in the Puget Sound and a few in other states.
That is in addition to the shows at Edmonds Center for the Arts that we are again attending regularly and the concerts at Hazel Miller Plaza.
Going two years on a pandemic-imposed moratorium on live music created quite the void. Not feeling the drumbeat or bass line in my chest, losing out on the chance to see artists who can no longer tour, and missing the community of listeners who share the love of a band or a song.
Study after study has found that music is a form of therapy – it has a positive effect on physical and psychological conditions like dementia, anxiety, depression, and even cancer. Psychologists and therapists actually do recommend music therapy to patients to improve their health.
Music therapy is effective in improving the mental health of people who are incarcerated, and having people come out of prison with better social functioning and less anxiety or depression is good for society, as well as for them.
Kids in hospitals who listen to music reported less pain that those who did not. (For me, music is a prerequisite to a successful visit to the dentist.) Music reduces depression, reduces antisocial behavior, and improves cognitive functioning.
Engaging with music – singing, listening, dancing, and even just talking about it – helps our body's systems connect and function better, and our heart rate, respiration, and blood pressure all improve. Science may have more recently proven it, but we always knew that music soothes the body, mind, and soul. Poet Berthold Auerbach said, "Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life."
I practice music therapy pretty regularly, whether driving in the car with the volume a tad loud, dancing around the kitchen as I cook or bake, and playing old songs with friends that remind us of days gone by. Just last night, we looked up the Housemartins, a band we had lost touch with.
Remembering their serious, socially-just lyrics accompanied by campy, danceable tunes was pretty delightful, especially once we went down the rabbit hole of discussing where each of the band members ended up – one became Fatboy Slim!
But even more than listening at home, there is something about a live show that transforms. Standing in Climate Pledge Arena with 18,000 of my closest Duran Duran friends, we sang along with every word, swayed with our phone lights on, and cheered with glee in response to John's remarkable bass riffs or the lyrics we all wrote in our diaries and notebooks or words from Simon.
The next night, the lead singer of the Cure, Robert Smith, made every single person in the audience feel special and seen and more than OK to be different. These moments of music together break down the boundaries or differences and unite us, at least for the night.
As the Duran lyric goes:
If you are a child of the world
Born to build bridges and tear down the walls
We watch the outmode of the old order
We make a song road to cross all borders
You and I tonite
No way to fight it
We come together