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Music and the Quality of Life

By Barrington H. Brennen, August 12, 2013, 2021




t is certainly true that music is the universal language with the greatest influence on earth.  The influence can be good or bad.   Russian writer Leo Tolstoy (1828 to 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."


Depending on the type of music one mostly enjoys it will determine one’s longevity of life.   In the United States the average lifespan 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 reports a new study, which charted the lives of 1,050 American and European music artists between 1965 and 2005, has found they are more than twice as likely to die young than the general population.”     Statistics will 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 young many musicians have so much medical issues leading to death?  In 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 musicians death listed going as far back as 1954.  Here is the summary of 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, 4; Electrocuted, 3; Fire, 3.


When we compare these facts with musicians who perform gospel, sacred, classical, inspirational, soul, or easy listening music, their lifespan are much longer on a whole.  For example:  Great 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, 94 (still alive); Leontyne Price, age 86 (still alive); Marian Anderson, died at age 96;  Johnny Mathis, age 78 (still alive), Engelbert Humperdinck, age 77 (still alive).  We can also think of many Bahamian and Caribbean musician 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. 



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 is being enhanced. Choral reading, poetry, and varieties of pronunciation and dialect become important as the brain and auditory system begins 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 cause them to think and meditate and that is what they do not want to do.    It 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 you heart, mind and body a great deal of good.  Maybe your brain will function better and you might develop more life skills. 



Here are a few tips that can help you use music more effectively or therapeutically.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. If you need stimulation after a day of work, go for a faster music rather than slow calming music.

  4. When going gets tough, go for a music you are familiar with - such as a childhood favorite or favorite oldies. Familiarity often breeds calmness.

  5. Take walks with your favorite music playing on the walkman. Inhale and exhale in tune with the music. Let the music takes you. This is a great stress reliever by combining exercise (brisk walk), imagery and music.

  6. Listening to the sounds of nature, such as ocean waves or the calm of a deep forest, can reduce stress. Try taking a 15- to 20-minute walk if you're near the seashore or a quiet patch of woods. If not, you can buy tapes of these sounds in many music stores.


Remember how King Soul in the Bible used music.  “David's skillful playing upon the harp soothed the troubled spirit of Saul. As he listened to the enchanting strains of music, it had an influence to dispel the gloom which settled upon him, and to bring his excited mind into a more rational, happy state.”  Conflict and Courage.   1 Samuel 16:14-23 explains that "Whenever the evil spirit from God afflicted Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand; so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.”


Barrington H. Brennen is a marriage and family therapist, and board certified clinical psychotherapist, USA. Send your questions or comments to question@soencouragement.org   or write to P.O. Box CB-13019, Nassau, The Bahamas, or call 242-327-1980.








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