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We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Music Lessons

                Parents can strengthen their children in numerous ways by insuring they receive musical instruction in their childhood and youth.  Scientists have proven a connection between music and mathematics.  Other studies connect music with IQ and other academic subjects.  Recent studies have connected music instruction with emotional and behavioral growth.

                The January 2015 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry published a report about a study entitled “Cortical Thickness Maturation and Duration of Music Training:  Health-Promoting Activities Shape Brain Development.” The cortex is the outer layer of the brain, and the thickness of it changes as a child matures.

                The objective of the study was to assess the effect of musical training on the development of the thickness of the cortical.  There were 232 children and youth, ages 6-18 years of age, in the study.  Participants in the study made up to three separate visits to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) at two-year intervals.  There they underwent Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanning and behavioral testing.  The thickness of a participant’s cortical, the number of years playing a musical instrument, age and gender were all considered in the study.

                Even though “playing a musical instrument was associated with more rapid cortical thickness maturation within areas implicated in motor planning and coordination, visuospatial ability, and emotion and impulse regulation,” researchers found “no association between thickness and years playing a musical instrument.”

                The study shows that parents can expect greater blessings from enduring the early periods of musical training than simply beautiful music.  Musical training helps children develop fine motor skills and aids in their emotional and behavioral maturation.  Musical training also aids in academic work.

                I have a dear friend who has wonderful music abilities – both instrumental and voice – as well as mathematical skills good enough to teach on the university level.  She told me many years ago that her mathematical skills help her musical skills and vice versa.  Maybe my lack of musical training as a child led to my difficulty in understanding mathematics!   

                Even though my husband does not play a musical instrument, he has great appreciation for music; he is an engineer with great capacity to understand and remember numbers.  My children all received piano lessons in their childhood and took AP math classes in high school.  None of them became engineers or scientists, but they know algebra, physics, trigonometry, etc.  I believe there is a definite connection between music and mathematics, and history and science seems to support my belief.

                “Music theorists sometimes use mathematics to understand music, and although music has no axiomatic foundation in modern mathematics, mathematics is `the basis of sound’ and sound itself `in its musical aspects… exhibits a remarkable array of number properties’, simply because nature itself `is amazingly mathematical’.  Though ancient Chinese, Egyptians and Mesopotamians are known to have studied the mathematical principles of sound, the Pythagoreans (in particular Philolaus and Archytas) of ancient Greece were the first researchers known to have investigated the expression of musical scales in terms of numerical ratios, particularly the ratios of small integers.  Their central doctrine was that `all nature consists of harmony arising out of numbers’.
                “From the time of Plato, harmony was considered a fundamental branch of physics, now known as musical acoustics.  Early Indian and Chinese theorists show similar approaches:  all sought to show that the mathematical laws of harmonics and rhythms were fundamental not only to our understanding of the world but to human well-being.  Confucius, like Pythagoras, regarded the small numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 as the source of all perfection.
                “The attempt to structure and communicate new ways of composing and hearing music has led to musical applications of set theory, abstract algebra and number theory….”

                Ludwig van Beethoven was born in 1770 and died in 1827.  He was a German composer and pianist who “reinvented the symphony and redefined piano sonatas.”  He is possibly one of the greatest composers of all time and wrote most of his songs while going deaf.  How did he do it?  Natalya St. Clair uses Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” to show how he “was able to convey emotion and creativity using the certainty of mathematics.

                I had no musical training in my childhood and youth.  I loved to sing the songs I heard on the radio, in movies, or at church, but I did not actually know music, how to read it, or carry a tune.  I graduated from high school with little appreciation for music and no appreciation at all for instrumental music without words.  Over the years and with my husband’s help, I learned more about music and gained greater appreciation for it.  I am now able to pick out the sounds of the piano and violin from the sounds of the bass instruments and consider this to be a great achievement.  My growing appreciation for music helps me to encourage others to learn more about music when they are young.  I urge all parents to provide musical lessons for their children in their childhood and youth if at all possible.  I know music strengthens individuals in many ways, and strong individuals strengthen families, communities, and nations.

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