Thursday, August 30, 2012

Music is Medicine is (not) a Metaphor



A week ago, during one of my morning studio classes, we were visited by a few of the elders from the center where I teach.  The center was closed for two weeks for yearly maintenance and some of the elders were not enjoying the idea of missing class.

As a result, one of my dreams came true:  we mixed the elders right into a "regular" studio class.

When I teach the elders, I do not change my ways.  I teach them the same stuff I teach anyone of any age so they fit right in.

Some magics happened, for sure.  There was much laughter and some crying and tons of connection and a little bit of falling in love for some of them.

On top of not changing the material I present when teaching elders, I do not change my music.

Most people assume I make special lists for them.  And certainly, there is strong evidence that music from your youth is very youth-i-fying.  ((smile))

(Go here to read a post I wrote about the science behind the youth-i-fication of music and also my love of Duran Duran.)

I have found, though, that listening to new music, music they would never hear otherwise, has an invigorating effect on many levels.

Most significantly, they don't know this music, so they don't move in ways that are stereotypical for them, which is important for the health of the body, regardless of age.

Stereotypy is what eventually leads to all sorts of problems, including problems with decreasing strength and a lack of balance.  Spontaneity is what allows the body to be fluid, responding to each situation in appropriate-to-that-moment ways.

In that light, I am also always on the lookout for music that NONE of my students will know.

And might I add...some of the favorites of my elders include anything by JACK WHITE, Peter Gabriel, Sigur Ros, Vampire Weekend, Jamie Cullum, and on and on...though they found Duran Duran a bit weird and passionately dislike Florence and the Machine.

Of course, there is not just a physical body element to music choice.  They -- like anyone else -- are responding on an emotional level.

When I get to any of my classes, I take the temperature of the room, and I am an awesome guesser as to what everyone needs.

If people seem down or sad or exhausted, I can change that usually within about ten to twenty minutes.

Which brings me to the title of this piece: Music is Medicine.

Yes, it is a metaphor in that music is not a pill.

But no, it is not a metaphor in that it should be prescribed because it can completely change your day from bad to good in approximately 3 minutes.

Music is vibration. The stuff of the universe and the stuff of our bodies. We respond on a cellular level.

The next time you are in a bad mood or you are feeling distracted, ask yourself, what music would change this?

Here are some ideas for your Pandora station.  And if you don't know what Pandora is, it's free and you should use it.

If you are feeling really low energy, plug in the Jackson Five and see what happens.

If you are feeling sad, try Pepe & The Bottle Blonds.

If you need to focus, there is Prem Joshua or Zoe Keating or Philip Glass.  (BEWARE of Philip Glass unless you are in a stable happy place.)

And a few more of mine:  Lila Downs, Bitter:Sweet, Mickey Hart -- Planet Drum, Scissor Sisters, Frank Sinatra, Jamie Cullum (of course), Neil Finn, Goldfrapp, Liquid Mind, Afro Celt Sound System, Vincente Amigo, Susheela Raman, Midival Punditz, and yes, Duran Duran.