The Power of Music

by Miranda Gent

Music is powerful in so many different ways and has a profound effect in the lives of people of every age that I could only describe as positive.

For me, music evokes numerous memories as it has always been a large part of my life, having attended a prep school where you were weird if you didn't play an instrument or couldn't read music.

When I think of music in general, endless images of concerts and gigs spring to mind, making a collage of memories of the butterflies and excitement of stage nerves, whispering or dancing backstage with friends, seeing applauding audiences and the incredible sense of pride and achievement that comes with it.

However, there are many songs or pieces of music that hold particular individual memories for me, and it is the link between memory, music and emotion that I wish to explore in this article.

The main form of music that I spend my time on now is songwriting. I wrote my first fully-formed and competed song when I was 13, and I have been writing ever since.

For me, songwriting is so incredible as it is, in my opinion, the purest form of self-expression, as it combines the forces of music and language, both of which are able to encapsulate emotions beautifully. I think of songs as poems set to music, and since I am in love with both poetry and music, I am very much in love with songwriting. Having said this, I also fully appreciate the use of visual art as a form of self-expression and all the wondrous and inventive ways that emotions and meanings can be conveyed in this way.

Personally, I use songwriting as more of a stress reliever than anything else now, as I find that when I'm upset or angry about something I can't focus on anything else or move on from it until I've written a song. Then, I sing this song repeatedly until it's just a song like any other and it no longer feels personal to me, which helps me to move on from the negative feeling. So, songwriting has partly become a way in which I cope with difficult situations.

Furthermore, songwriting is also an amazing way to create an audible form of positive emotions, and to immortalise precious moments that you can then revisit again and again.

In fact, it has been scientifically proven that there are strong links between music, memory and emotion and research into this link has helped many people suffering from Alzheimer's and Dementia. Music has been made beneficial for these people in the form of, ‘music therapy’, in which patients are played music that have particular memories for them or simply remind them of a point in their lives when they played, heard or performed a particular song continuously. This is valuable for people who experience memory loss, as it triggers memories and aids people greatly in remembering points of their lives, or people in their lives, that they had forgotten. As a result of this, people have been seen to become more sociable and happy, as well as getting on with others better, which may sound trivial, but actually means a great deal to the family and friends of such people, who can sometimes feel as if they have lost a friend or family member when they are affected by these diseases. Moreover, music therapy dramatically improves the life and mental health of the patient themselves a great deal, which should not be underestimated.

I have seen the effects of such treatment myself when undertaking drama workshops in Ignite sessions with school, in which we used music and drama to aid people under the effects of Alzheimer's and dementia to remember details about their lives that they perhaps had completely forgotten about and I was shocked by the difference that music had on people.

There was one man in particular, named Frank, who was clutching very tightly to an Elvis Presley mug, who became a completely different person during the course of the workshop. At the start, he was withdrawn and nervous; not really understanding what was going on. In fact, when I asked him what his name was he looked up at me blankly and said with tears in his eyes,”I don't know”, and seemed to be incapable or undesiring to say anything else. However, as soon as we put on some Elvis Presley, he was a changed man; he began to chat endlessly and could not stop grinning. It was heartwarming to see such a positive and dramatic change in someone so quickly, as I had not realised how much someone's mood could be lifted simply by hearing a familiar song, and how drastically different a person could become as a result.

This is just one example of how music can positively impact someone's life, and I can think of many others. For example, I’m always seeing how much more confident young people become from performing, and experience this myself. As well as this, I see the effects of everyone around me listening to music on a daily basis, making them smile, dance or simply motivated to do their work, as well as sometimes putting into words what they couldn't, and giving them a sense of contentment and relief as a result.

To conclude, I would say that introducing more music into your life, in whatever way, can only be a positive thing, and I highly recommend it.