Sunday, March 4, 2012

The language of us all

from here
I recently watched a fascinating documentary on SBS called The Musical Brain; if you’re into music or brains or documentaries, I highly recommend this one. In it, a doctor points out that humans are the only species who can synchronise their movements to music (how interesting is that?!), and the results of one of the experiments mentioned earlier in the documentary suggest that “the more we respond to a piece of music by moving to it, the more we activate the pleasure circuits of the brain, which in turn stimulate the release of Dopamine, the so-called ‘feel good’ hormone.” I wonder if anyone’s started dancing sessions for depressed people? (THIS COULD BE MY CALLING! I’d name my group The Moody Groovers.)

I love music, although watching this documentary made me realise that describing yourself as someone who loves music is as un-profound as declaring that you have a heartbeat or are a human being. I love that music can turn a traffic jam into an opportunity to sing at the top of your voice for a little while longer, and dinner preparation into a chance to boogie in your kitchen using a salt shaker for a microphone. I love that when my son was much younger, Beck’s Lost Cause could stop his wails much faster than any shushing or soothing on my part. I love that it’s almost impossible to not bop to some songs, and that my list of bopping songs will differ to yours. I can’t imagine how awesome the music in heaven will be, but I’m eager to find out; a group of people (no matter how small) singing the “We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise” line of Amazing Grace invariably makes me tear up.

Learning to play an instrument is up the priority end of my bucket list, but I’ve never had the patience to stick at any for long enough to see encouraging progress. My guitar and djembe drum – both presents from my “I will embrace whatever craze you mention”-super-supportive husband – are currently in our lounge room for decoration rather than music-making. My husband tried to give me guitar lessons himself a couple of years ago, but he was a no-nonsense teacher and I was an all-nonsense student; the sessions did not go well.

I look forward to watching my son’s taste in music develop as he grows. At the moment he’ll dance to whatever’s playing, and I take joy in introducing him to a wide range of artists, from The Beatles to Beyonce to Birds of Tokyo to Ben Harper to Boys II Men. This is the only home-schooling subject I feel partly qualified to teach so I’ve started it early, playing Nelly when Daddy’s not around to mock us, and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds when Daddy is around so that he’s satisfied with his son’s musical education. I try to vary our car music, but nothing quietens my bored boy quite like Play School; I’m not sure whether I should be bothered by the fact that I always know which song is coming up next on that CD but I still struggle to find 2 Peter in my Bible.

Thinking about the amount of good music in the world overwhelms me, and sometimes I get sad when I realise that there are brilliant songs in Iceland (for example) that I’ll (probably) never get a chance to hear. But I turn my stereo up loud and cut a rug to Love Like Semtex by The Infidels or Two Shoes by The Cat Empire or The Salmon Dance by The Chemical Brothers and then I feel much, much better.


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