Monday, January 5, 2009

Growing With Music: How Music Affects Child Development

Lipski, Gloria. "Growing With Music: How Music Affects Child Development" (unpublished, 1999).

For this entry, I'm going to write about a paper that I wrote when I was in grade 10. It was my first bibliographic essay and in it I am greatly attached to the positive affects of music and I rely heavily on the Mozart Effect. I am interested in seeing how I argued for a notion of musical intelligence that has since been adjusted drastically. I list the benefits of music, especially to children: problem solving sills, teamwork, self-expression, hand-eye coordination, poise, memory, and concentration. I quote that musical involvement correlates with high academic achievement.

I begin with a discussion of music promoting growth even before birth. Between the third and fourth months, a baby begins to sense sound and thenceforth becomes very responsive to the mother's voice, even getting in sync with the mother's speech and body rhythms. Prenatal listening can affect musical ability after birth and agitation and relaxation within the womb demonstrate some musical discrimination. As children, music promotes social bonding. Music improves intellectual functioning. Listening to Baroque music improves memorization, concentration, and standardized test scores. Tapping rhythms synchronizes the left and right brain. The affects of music also interact with emotional intelligence. It stimulates, expresses, and creates many moods and feelings. It gives an alternative to verbal expression. It stimulates the release of pleasure-inducing endorphins. The human voice is the most powerful tool in transforming pain into well-being.

I go on to discuss the physicality of music further. The strongest force in nature are the infinitesimally small vibrations that hold DNA together. It can affect us very physiologically, including strength and pacing of exercise, eating speed, immune system, body temperature, etc. The natural highs produced by various musical activities, including listening, elevate the level of T-cells in our bodies, which help to prevent disease. These affects in childhood are extremely important in that children's minds and bodies are in the process of being constituted mentally, physically, and spiritually. They still have the potential to be greatly impacted.

For further reference, my main sources follow below. These were accompanied by some magazine articles and other sources that are available upon request.

Campbell, Don. The Mozart Effect. New York: Avon Books, 1997.

Ledson, Sidney. Raising Brighter Children. Toronto: The Canadian Publishers, 1983.

Verny, Thomas, M.D. The Secret Life of the Unborn Child. Toronto: Collins Publishers, 1981.

This was an interesting exercise. I suspect that this opinion paper represents the opinions of many people who want to add legitimacy and importance to music education. As when one of our visitors to class informed us that the Mozart effect is not everything we dreamed of, people likely have a hard time accepting that the assertion that music makes you smarter is simply not true. Many of us cling to and argue for this almost daily. I use many generalized statements and do not nuance the argument at all in this paper, which I think many others of the same opinion are also guilty of. I'm not sure what harm this really does, however. Perhaps this is what makes it such an attractive argument to try to make. I suppose there could be a social problem in terms of ignoring the socioeconomic factors that play largely in this debate. It is also interesting to see the advances that have been made since my days in high school. My sources now seem relatively old and apparently outdated. Not to get overly reflective, but I marvel at the way that the world's truth changes through the work of scholars like us. It's exciting.

1 comment:

Lee Bartel said...

This is amazing - one that you wrote such an essay in Grade 10 - with really extensive and broad review of the issue - and your current reflection on this. I am sure you could take this further, but what seems an issue to pick up is the role such an assertion as "music makes you smarter" plays in our own identity development as musicians and how it acts as an internal justification for the hard work music is as well as the effect this has on our relationships. But that is a topic for social psychology of music - next fall?