A Message From The President

July 2012

“If music be the food of love, play on………” 

William Shakespeare.

We are in the throngs of preparing for, what I hope will be, a relaxing, refreshing and joyful retreat. Yes, joyful. This year’s retreat will be filled with music and music is inherently joyful. Even soulful and longing music can intensify an emotion to make “singing the blues” a more pleasant experience.

I wonder what it is about music that is so evocative we seek out its rhythm during the most important times of our life. And why it is re-discovered and re-invented by every generation of young people, across the globe, and throughout time: lyric and rhythm. The average American teenager spends 1½-2½ hours a day—an eighth of his or her waking life—listening to it. For most of us, our musical preference is likewise age specific, echoing back to the music we listened to during our youth.

Some researchers believe that music is linked to courtship in a biologically based evolutionary dance that helps us choose “fit” mates. The reasoning is that musical expression is indicative of health and fitness much like the plumage of a peacock’s feathers. The theory goes that singing and dancing well is a sign of good coordination and fitness and, therefore, is a good courtship indicator. If this is the case, it is fortunate that my husband was not often exposed to my singing and dancing!

Another evolutionary biology theory is that music brings groups together, and may have served a communicative purpose even before the formation of spoken language. We have all had the experience of feeling more cohesive as a group while singing. I loved camp bus songs as a girl, and am always moved to share the Star Spangled Banner with thousands of strangers before a ball game.

Some recent research that tries to dissect the essence of our relationship to music focuses on our neurophysiology. This I can sink my teeth into! The addition of functional MRI imaging and increased understanding of brain chemistry reveals that listening to music causes the brain to release dopamine; the neurotransmitter most closely linked to pleasure, motivation, and addiction. People love music for much the same reason they’re drawn to sex, drugs, and delicious food. Couple this chemical pleasure surge with our brain’s natural tendency to try to create order and meaning from sensory input and perhaps the rhythm of music is like a great pleasure puzzle!

Whether you are joining us for retreat this year or not, take some time to listen to music. Listen to the music from your youth, go to i-tunes and explore some new music, or share some tunes with a friend. We certainly can all use a hit of dopamine, friendship, and joy!