June 2024
The Benefits of Music Appreciation
Are you listening?

If you love music as I do, you’ll know what I’m talking about. If you don’t — and many don’t — you’ll be sure I’m spewing nonsense.

Photo By Simon Noh

While surveys tell us that most Americans claim to listen to music on a daily basis, many only play the radio for background noise at work or in the car. There are those who consume whatever music is popular and forget it when it goes out of vogue, and those who embrace whatever genre best accessorizes their lifestyle. It’s been my experience that many can’t name the performers they so frequently “listen to.” I would not refer to these individuals as music lovers. To some of us, though, music really does matter.

I’ve never been big on concerts, myself. I don’t care for the crowds, secondhand pot smoke or sound quality (and since I’m not getting any younger, many of the artists I like are dead at this point anyway). The more popular the band, the less interested I am, figuring that anything that appeals to the masses must be pretty generic and overhyped. My tastes are eclectic, though, from punk and classic rock to folk and blues. I’m not into radio and waiting for that maybe one song out of ten worth hearing. I have little use for classical, country or rap, but can name one or two titles in each category that I can get along with. There are bands and performers that I think are irredeemably awful, and a couple that nearly turn my stomach. But as Frank Zappa once said, “Music is good. It’s the only religion that delivers the goods. If you like it, go for it. Just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean anything.”

I’m sure if you listened to some of what I like, you’d be appalled, and I won’t try to justify myself. I make no excuses or apologies. What I want to hear depends on the mood I’m in. I can acknowledge the limitations of a musical entity, even laugh about it, and still enjoy what they produce. It doesn’t have to be Mozart or the Beatles (or whatever one accepts as the musical pinnacle) to be good. I’m not here to advocate my own musical preferences, or to criticize yours. George Thorogood once compared his songs to hamburgers, and went on to point out that there’s nothing wrong with a quality hamburger. If the music moves you, makes you happy or sad or mellow or energized, then it speaks to some part of you.

If you’re truly a music lover, I have good news for you. Research by the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine has shown that listening to music is beneficial to your health. The genre doesn’t appear to matter. It can reduce anxiety, blood pressure and pain. At the same time, it can improve mood, sleep quality, memory and mental alertness in general. Unfamiliar music in particular may help boost creativity. Musical composition and performance may be effective against some forms of dementia, by challenging your brain in a unique fashion.

I know, we’re all busy busy busy. Sometimes I forget. I’m at a loss; I know I’m wanting something, something vital, but can’t put my finger on what it is. Life gets in the way, spiritual dehydration sets in. Maybe in the back of my mind I feel there’s too much left undone, that I can’t afford or don’t deserve the luxury of music. But we must all learn to take the time we need to keep ourselves alive and functioning. When was the last time you listened to music? I don’t mean had the radio on while cleaning the garage or playing pickleball, but actually listened as a deliberate activity, to music of your own choosing. I promise you, it is not a waste of time; for some of us it’s a need, like water, or sleep or vitamin B12. Age is not a factor. If you’re lucky enough to love music of any sort or era, cling to it, seek refuge in it.

Drop the needle, or press play. Close your eyes, concentrate on that familiar sound. Do you feel its energy moving through you? Are memories returning? Are you swaying to the beat, foot tapping? Are you tempted to sing along? Got the air-guitar tuned? Do you want to laugh or cry? Indulge yourself, it’s healthy. Music restoreth the soul.

Anthony Gainey is a Prescott writer and observer of the human condition.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.