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DateLine Sunday, 11 May 2008

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Power of music

Music seems to be enjoying an all pervading presence in our humdrum lives. We start the day with music. My next door neighbour switches on his radio and music starts flowing uninterrupted. Although we have our own brand of music, most of us listen to Hindi music all the time.

We listen to music mainly for entertainment. However, modern research shows that music can greatly enhance relaxation and relieve stress. What is more, a particular piece of music can change your mood. In most private sector organisations they play background music that keeps the work force in a happy mood.

Unlike other performing arts, recorded music can be listened to while you are engaged in some other task. More than songs, instrumental music helps to relieve stress and enjoy life.

The great quality about music is that you do not have to be a musician to enjoy it. For instance, when we meet our friends at a party, we make our own music.

This happens quite instantaneously. One person starts singing and the others provide background music using broom sticks, dustbin lids, saucepans, bottles filled with pebbles or any other household item that makes sound. I do not think anybody would condemn such instance music.

Some of us sing in the bathroom tapping on the door. Young men whistle while taking a shave. Children begin to play various musical instruments at home and school. Travellers in air-conditioned buses doze off while listening to recorded music. Even joggers carry a set of personal stereo to keep themselves happy.

There are different kinds of music for our differing tastes. You can listen to classical, pop, rock, rap, jazz or folk music wherever you happen to be. This shows that the effect of music on our life is undeniably great.

According to modern research, those who create music either vocally or using instruments experience an added dimension to their lives. Music cuts through all man-made barriers such as cultures, religion, and ethnicity. As a result, you can enjoy Hindi or Urdu music even if you do not know their languages.

Meanwhile, music has become a therapy for millions of people who undergo stress in their day-to-day life. Visit a temple, kovil or church and listen to the spiritual music that acts like a balm on your tired nerves. Once I sat in a kovil in New Delhi and listened to the soothing music. I forgot all my worries and regained my composure. That is the power of spiritualmusic.

Film makers know how to use music to affect your moods and entice the audience. For instance, a romantic film like “Love in 1942” will have a different kind of music from a horror film. Even in the distant past when silent films were screened, a pianist sat in the cinema playing music to strike the right mood. You cannot watch even a brilliant actor like Charlie Chaplin if there is no background music.

When you hear a particular piece of instrumental music on television, you know that it is time for your favourite teledrama. Latest research shows that background music you hear in shopping malls and supermarkets encourage you to spend more money than is necessary.

In fact, a team of psychologists from Leicester University has emphasized that music can affect even the products we buy. For a set period of time, they played French music. Using a video camera directed at the wine shelves, they found that there was a significant increase in the number of French wine bottles being sold.

They then played a German tune which showed similar results as far as German wine was concerned. What is significant in this study is that buyers were quite unaware of the influence of the music they were listening to.

Another finding shows that playing Mozart when studying can increase your learning capacity and IQ. Another research shows that children who learn how to play a musical instrument are quick at developing spatial awareness and problem solving skills.

A report in the “Daily Express” headlined “Music to your ears” said that there were times when we might feel like taking our temper out on a set of drums, and it would almost certianly help us to feel better. Relaxation or “New Age” music has a slow rhythm. Sounds are very often synthesised and there may be added natural sounds, such as, whale song, birdsong, waves or gentle rain to give you a feeling of calmness and relaxation.

Psychologists say that children who learn music are better at remembering words than those who do not do so. Music is also said to be beneficial in treating memory loss or language difficulties.

Music can be used for many other purposes. For instance, McDonalds - World’s largest fast food chain - once conducted a research into eating habits. They found that when the music was speeded up, people ate faster. When the restaurant is full and people are waiting to enter impatiently, they play fast music. As a result, customers begin to eat faster and leave the restaurant quickly.

Some shools in London started playing background music in classrooms on a trial basis and found that music helped even unruly children to study better.

If you are under stress, before consulting a doctor listen to some soothing music. There are cassettes and CDs freely available in the market. Once I listened to a CD entitled “Spiritual Healing Sounds” by Dr. Rishi Kendra. The country of origin is obviously India. After listening to the instrumental music I felt that it changed my mood for the better.

During a recent visit to a CD sales outlet in Colombo I found Anil Mihiripenna’s “Sangeeth Bhavana” (musical meditation) aimed at stress-busting. However, music alone will not help to deal with certain types of stress.

Music can only relieve your stress to a certain degree. Sangeeth Bhavana has used a combination of “Swara Samadhi” or “Swara Sankalpana” to set the mood and purify the mind. The musical set combines solo instruments such as the flute, the sarod, the violin and the esraj along with very soft vocal music.

As has been seen, the power of music has spread to many spheres of life. Apart from eating good food, music helps us to lead a balanced and happy life. If somebody says he does not like music, there must be something radically wrong with him. Those who enjoy music enjoy life.

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