While the quotes used by Anthony Storr in his book Music and the Mind first drew me in, it was the way he developed the story that continued to keep me engaged. Music and the Mind was published in 1992 (outside of my two year rule, bust in my defense, I read the book before writing my last blog), and the author takes his reader through the origin of music through how music has become such an integral part of our lives. As with other books, I focused on specific chapters rather than reading from beginning to end. From my understanding of the introductions to the chapters I omitted, they were focused on music theory more than the philosophy or psychology of music. This is the first of a two-part series on Anthony Storr’s Music and the Mind.
Origin of Music
The way he explores the origin and use of music is very similar to someone thinking aloud. He explores what philosophers, archaeologists, and psychologists have said before settling on his own analysis: “It will never be possible to establish the origins of human music with any certainty; however, it seems probable that music developed from the prosodic exchanges between mother and infant which foster the bond between them”.
This first chapter demonstrates the importance of academic research. Storr explores birdsong and nature’s sounds such as a babbling brook or the wind. He interviews experts in the field and never discounts their wisdom. Any academic should follow Storr’s example.
Music, Brain, and Body
Oliver Sacks speaks of the mind-body connection associated with music, but I feel Storr explores it with more depth.
For example, he describes as this connection as arousal, perhaps the most intense feeling a person can experience. Further, he explains, “During arousal, the electrical resistance of the skin is diminished; the pupil of the eye dilates; the respiratory rate may become either faster or slower, or else becomes irregular … There is an increase in muscular tone, which may be accompanied by physical restlessness”. I don’t know that I’ve ever had that type of response unless you count that one time I was fourth row watching my favorite band in concert!
Aside from describing the response to music as arousing, he asserts that hearing is the most important sense. He goes so far to state that deaf individuals are the most isolated because of their inability to hear sound. His paragraph on this subject reminds me of a scene in Mr. Holland’s Opus and a Duracell commercial. If you’ve seen Mr. Holland’s Opus, you might remember when character arranged a performance for his son, Cole and the school for the deaf. The students were enchanted by the lights blinking in rhythm of the music. Some students were able to hear or sense the beat of the 808 drum, and their faces lit up more than they did when they watched the lights. And do you remember the Duracell commercial when the boy just fitted with a hearing aid could hear the rain? In both examples, those glimpses of sound were incredible to the deaf individuals. And, it only further confirms the statements by Storr!
I’ll continue my analysis in my next blog. Stay tuned!