Music Then and Now

Music is all around us. It is a mainstay of our society and is inherent in the souls of our beings. Even in utero it is said that the fetus is able to respond to music that the mother plays or sings. Music can be found in just about every environment around us: calming or happy music in restaurants, grocery stores, doctor/dentist offices, department stores, elevators, schools, or weddings; majestic music at firework displays or parades; or even serene music at a funeral. It can be heard on almost every television commercial and in the theme of every television show. Some people crave music like a drug and just cannot live without it playing in the car and even singing in the shower.

Every person has the ability to produce music whether vocally or with a music instrument. We may not all have accurate intonation or pitch vocally or may not produce a great sound due to a difference in how we process auditory information, as Simon Cowell so blatantly points out on “American Idol”, but we have the capability of producing music. With some coaching or instruction, like many of the cast members of the television show “Glee” as reported by Emile Menasche’, we can deliver a powerful vocal performance.

Over time, music has developed into an extensively large variety of categories and subclasses. These can include classical, jazz, blues, swing, symphony, opera, rock, rap/hip-hop, country, folk, pop, R n B, theatre, heavy metal, Latin, techno, tango, children’s, electronic, Native American, inspirational, marching band, gospel, romantic, melancholy, or spiritual. Most of these types of music have come about as a part of the changes in the structure and function of our cultures.

Music also serves to be very therapeutic. From my own experience as an occupational therapist, music helps persons with a range of different disabilities to improve function whether it may be for communication or movement purposes. For example, in working with persons who have sustained a stroke and have expressive aphasia (able to understand language, but unable to formulate the words to verbally express it), singing allows them to say what they want since this involves a different part of the brain. In working with children with autism spectrum disorders, I have found music helps develop more coordinated movement and motor planning as it provides the timing and rhythm that these children are not able to access in their brain. Any music instrument can also be therapeutic, whether it is woodwind instruments, brass instruments, or string instruments, or even just dancing to music.

The ribbon reed was the first simple music instrument to be played with the mouth like the woodwind instruments. This was just a blade of grass taken from a reed stretched between the two thumbs held side by side and by blowing into the crack the blade would vibrate with a high pitched screeching noise (what young child hasn’t done this even today?). More developed civilizations rolled up a wide blade of grass spirally to form a funnel tube with the thin end of the blade crossing the upper opening. Eventually, the flute was developed which was played like most other woodwind instruments: by blowing into the air column of the tube a vibration was created and produced a specific tone.

The twentieth century brought about many radical changes in musical styles such as jazz, swing, pop, and rock. However, aside from the introduction of electric instruments (eg. piano, organ, stringed instruments), the amount of changes to woodwind instruments were not as great.

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