Music touches hearts, shapes minds

David House and band perform music in MCCC's Cafeteria

Music’s relevance has remained constant, yet with its melodic styles and rhythms ever changing.

For many, music is simply entertainment, a way to pass the time. For others it is an outlet, a way to deal with stress, confusion, frustration and pain. It is a way to celebrate, to have fun, to manifest joy and satisfaction, and to experience fulfillment.

Still for some it holds a deeply spiritual application, combining all these and then adding yet another layer of meaning.

MCCC students have acknowledged the significant role music plays in their lives, and there have been multiple concerts put on at the college for entertainment and awareness purposes.

Musician David House held an acoustic concert in the dining room of the Administration Building on MCCC’s campus. Having transferred from Lansing Community College, this is his first semester at MCCC. He is aspiring to obtain a degree in music education from Michigan State University.

When asked about the role music has played in his life, House said that he got involved with it at a very early age being a preacher’s kid.

When he was 12 years old, House picked up a guitar for the first time, inspired by the death of rock artist Kurt Cobain. House is currently a worship leader at New Life church in Petersburg, Michigan. Josh Ellis is the lead pastor of New Life church and said that the Lord redeemed House’s gift of music.

This act of redeeming is what made House want to do music in church.

"The Lord inspired me to use my gift for good, to help people get closer to God. I’ve been leading worship since 2005," House said.

House takes seriously his calling as a worship leader, and feels like he personally touches the hearts and lives of people that attend his church.

"Being a worship leader is a very important role. It’s important to be a good steward of the gift God has given you," says House. "When I sing and play music, it’s a very natural thing, it just flows out."

House believes that his personality benefits him in the role he maintains at New Life church.

"I’m a sanguine. I’m outspoken, and I love people. I’m just crazy about people," House said.

In House’s psychology class he is learning that music hits more spots in the brain than anything else, and he thinks that music is the fuel that fires the life inside the current generation of young adults.

"Music is powerful because it speaks to the soul," he said. "Music has the power to encourage."

For Janice Martyres, also a student at MCCC, the purpose of music in her life is to bring relaxation. She said she listens to it the majority of her day—in between classes, during homework and where she works.

Martyres says she listens to everything except country, because it’s not her style, and prefers jazzy, instrumental music.

She thinks that the pop and electronic styles of music are currently taking over her generation’s tastes.

"It’s kind of like a book," said Martyres. "You can get lost in it, getting away from everyday life and stress."

Like House, Martyres is aware that there’s more to music as it relates to the human brain than what is on the surface of the tunes.

"I know they’ve done research to scientifically prove that music affects different parts of the brain," she said.

Another MCCC student, Nico Garcia, says he listens to music mostly 24 hours a day. Even if he is not physically listening to a song he has one in his head and hums it.

Garcia said that music has been his whole life since childhood, and he plans on going into music education as a career.

He is drawn to the rap genre and describes it as being like a motivation.

"It’s fast. So it pumps you up and keeps you motivated throughout the day," Garcia said.

Garcia agrees that music is scientific, but believes that a song’s melody is the main characteristic that places a personal effect on people.

"Mostly a song is about a story, someone’s life, and you can actually relate to it a certain way," he said.

MCCC Writing Fellow, Jared Hehl, also thinks there is more science behind how music can affect young adults’ minds than is realized.

He believes that music has a way of interacting with and affecting people through their emotions. For example, if people are sad they are going to listen to slower songs, not peppy ones.

"If I’m not in an upbeat mood, I’m not going to listen to a fast song. I’m going to listen to something in the middle," Hehl said.

Hehl estimates that he listens to music for at least two to three hours every day. He listens to it for entertainment, but also for relaxation purposes, depending on the mood he’s in and the kind of music he happens to be listening to.

Hehl listens to everything except country and rap. He said he doesn’t enjoy rap because he can’t understand what the rappers are saying, and understanding the words an artist says is important to him.

"I need to know what the song is about rather than just listen to them (musicians) rap, scream, or whatever they’re doing about their problems," Hehl said.

Hehl doesn’t know the reason why, but said that knowing the story behind why an artist wrote a song is what peaks his interest in that song.

Music has been around for centuries. It has evolved through the ages to fit the changing generations, but it has never expanded so much that it no longer connects with the human heart on a personal level.

Melodies have held fast an element that gives them an eternal feel. From the ancient Gregorian chants to today’s Electronic storm, music has adapted to fit certain cultures through the years.

Scott Ritsema, author of a compiled series of lectures on music, as it relates to its effects on the human brain, gathered quotes and information from multiple experts in the field.

Psychiatrist Dr. Howard Hanson held that music consists of multiple elements that can, depending on how they are combined, yield different results.

"Music is made up of many ingredients," said Dr. Hanson. "And according to the proportion of these components, it can be soothing or invigorating, ennobling or vulgarizing, philosophical or orgiastic. It has powers for evil as well as good."

In his book, The Psychology of Music, Dr. Max Shoen asserts that music is certainly not neutral, but is a powerful force.

"Music is the most powerful stimulus known among the perceptive senses," said Dr. Shoen. "The medical, psychiatric and other evidences for the non-neutrality of music is so overwhelming that it frankly amazes me that anyone should seriously say otherwise."

Music is also the expression of emotion. Musicologist Dr. Manfred Clynes excessively studied music in relation to our emotions and determined through his research what different human emotions sound like musically.

Dr. Wolfgang Stefani quoted Suzanne Langer saying that "’Music is a tonal analogue of emotive life.’"

"Music is the expression of the emotions; an aural image of how the feelings feel, how they operate," said musician Gordon Epperson.

If music expresses the emotions we feel, can it also manipulate our emotions?

"Music can rapidly and powerfully set moods and do so in a way not easily attained by other means," said Dr. Norman M. Weinberger, professor of Neurobiology at the University of California, Irvine. "Our thinking and our behavior are colored by music, which seems to have direct and unconscious access to the brain substrates of much, if not all, of our individual lives."

Dr. Richard Pelligrino says "Take it from a brain guy, in 25 years of working with the brain, I still cannot affect a person’s state of mind the way that one simple song can."

Ancient philosophers have suggested that the world’s different cultures and political states are also influenced by music.

In the 6th century B.C. Shu Ching said, "For changing peoples’ manners and customs, there is nothing better than music."

"If one should desire to know whether a kingdom is well governed, if its morals are good or bad, the quality of its music will furnish the answer.," said Confucius, 500 B.C.

Socrates stated that "When modes of music change, the fundamental laws of the state always change with them."

Music is cool. Music is fun. Music is unique. Music is powerful and seems to have a certain level of authority over the human being. It has been this way since the beginning of time and according to historical and current research it will continue to have such authority.

As the world changes with time, music continues to adapt to fit the tastes of the people, and even contributes to the changes in society. Music will always be evolving, but its power will remain constant.