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A Bonus for Florida Concert-goers: Music Can Be Healing

Children connect with music at a very early age, and research shows it can have a strong, positive effect on people of all ages. (V. Carter)
Children connect with music at a very early age, and research shows it can have a strong, positive effect on people of all ages. (V. Carter)
July 12, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – For many people, summer means concert season as bands and other musical acts hit the road and people flock to see them, even groups that might not have had a new hit in decades.

A music theory professor says there's a good reason for that.

Richard Ashley, associate professor of Music Theory and Cognition at Northwestern University, says the human brain is wired to respond to music, even though music isn't essential for survival.

He says research shows that even day-old infants are able to detect differences in rhythmic patterns, and that's why people in all cultures sing lullabies to crying babies.

Ashley explains nostalgic music can have an especially strong hold on people.

"It's not just that they're feeling happy or sad,” he says. “They're feeling all these kind of very complicated emotions that are changing a lot, and they don't know how to make sense of it.

“Words and the music together, the combination of those, is part of what gives it its power and its punch."

Ashley says research also shows that going to a concert can stimulate positive emotions in people who are feeling depressed.

He adds music is so powerful therapists all over the world use it.

Glen Phillips is lead singer in the band Toad the Wet Sprocket, and he's been writing songs for more than 30 years. Even though performers like to create new music, Phillips says they know people want to hear their favorite songs over and over again because it makes them feel good.

"It's doing what music is supposed to do,” Phillips states. “They're out on the dance floor, in the moment, they're not thinking about the past or the future. They're just letting the rhythm move through them, and the words aren't distracting."

Phillips and Toad the Wet Sprocket are on tour this year, with several stops in Florida in October.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - FL