Music has been an integral part of human life, ever since ancient times. A recent archaeological research has uncovered in southwest Germany what is essentially the earliest documented musical tradition wherein remains of a nearly complete bone flute, i.e. flutes made from bones in the Paleolithic age, were found. This suggests that music might have formed an essential part of entertainment in ancient times and helped build small communities in the growth of civilization.
Apart from entertainment, music serves a much greater purpose in our lives today.
We have come to realize how human emotions are closely tied to the musical notes and symphonies. The emotions that each musical piece sparks inside us helps us transcends cultures and makes us realize that we are part of one big family on this planet. Take the “Happy birthday” song sung during a person’s birthday. It is amazing that the birthday song has the exact same melody in all parts of the world, with the only difference being the lyrics for the song, which change based on the language in the region.
Studies have also shown that music helps with relaxation and therapy. There is in fact a branch of psychotherapy, named music therapy that attempts to use music for helping to improve a patient’s health. This is even more important for use in conjunction with sleep therapy for studying child development and particularly useful for treating autistic children.
To quote the Ms. Suzanne Hanser, Chair of the University Berklee Department of Music Therapy Chair, “There is scientific evidence that music therapy influences children on the autism spectrum in several ways, like enhancing skills in communication, interpersonal relationships, self-regulation, coping strategies, stress management, and focusing attention.” Her department has teamed up with Autism speaks, a leading autism science and advocacy organization to examine the effects of music therapy for children in the autism spectrum
There has also been strong evidence to show that children who learnt to play instruments during early childhood develop better motor coordination as well as lasting effect to the brain structure. For example, musical pieces with larger range of chords stimulate larger parts of the brain that helps with better brain development. This is possibly why classical music is often recommended for brain development because classical music has much larger range of chords compared to modern music. There are even projects undertaken on the Internet that maps musical tastes to the SAT scores, a suggested indicator of intelligence levels.
What this means is that even small babies might be ‘listening’ for musical tones when they are in the hands of their parents. So if you are an adventurous parent, the next time you are looking through your collection of baby care product and diaper bags to take with you for a picnic with the family, it might be a good idea to have some soft music on your iPod and keep them in the diaper bags to soothe your baby whenever you have a chance.