Autumn Leaves

The last Saturday I was waiting for my seven-years old daughter to come and practice on her violin. Recently this has become quite struggle as she find all possible reasons how to postpone her practice. So while waiting, I started preluding on my piano. As the waiting become quite long, my fingers somehow discovered quite familiar tune which I liked and started to develop further. Suddenly my daughter came down, joined me – and to my surprise, immediately grasped what the melody was about. And so we had a short ‘jam session’, which brought to both of us a lot of joy and fun. Although it was far from the way how the master Stephane Grappelli used to play this tune, the Autumn Leaves in our interpretation was a great expression of the mood in the nature outside as well as inside us.

“The man who disparages music as a luxury and non-essential is doing the nation an injury. Music now, more than ever before, is a national need. There is no better way to express patriotism than through music.”

— Woodrow Wilson —

Healthy adults don’t attract scientist enough

“When music is utilized in knowledgeable ways, evidence suggests it can have positive effects.” — Raymond MacDonald

Recently I have been reading a number of books and research papers about an impact the active music participation has on humans. And what surprises me is that there is a substantial gap in the demographics most of these writings are focusing on – healthy adults.
Everything starts with various studies focused on music and yet unborn children, and continues with many researchers working with children and young adults up to 24 years old. And then comes the gap of some forty years (or roughly two generations), thinly overarched by researching therapeutic impact on people with special needs. Then, again, much more light is being put on elderly people and how they can benefit from active music participation.
This leaves mostly untouched people in their most productive years from 25 to 65! This approach in partly understandable, as active music making can have huge impact on young generation in their most formative years. Elderly, on the other hand, have more health issues due to aging, where music (whether active or passive listening) is being used quite successfully. Also, these demographics have potentially less time constrains, so they may be more available for research.
But why are healthy adults omitted in many studies? Is it because after growing up from their music studies, they put their tired music instruments into closets and have become only passive consumers of the music industry products? Or they lack sufficient time, energy and motivation to either maintain, or further develop their already acquired musicality, even to pursue something completely new?
This is where I see a huge opportunity for artistic interventions – in focusing on people in their most active stages of life, and helping them improve quality of life through active music participation. This opportunity stands in front of academics and researchers on one side, but much more than that, it is on the side of music educators, professional musicians and specialized consultants and professionals, whose role should be to make active music-making a.k.a. musicking – available, understandable and enjoyable to these demographics.
In particular, I see the opportunity in organizing and supporting community and work-place choir singing, drumming circles, community and work-place orchestras and music bands, music composing and songwriting workshops, improvisation groups, music classes and jam-sessions at work-place.
Active music participation in a work-place setting is a great opportunity for employers to reap the benefits music offers. Among results such an approach represents directly to the bottom line, we could count: better employees wellbeing and health representing lower absenteeism and turnover; less stress and better work environment; better teamwork; more efficient management and leadership; more creative thinking and innovative ideas; more fun and motivation.
Commoditized music recordings are nowadays aimed to audience referred as ‘users’ of fast growing streaming services like Spotify or Apple Music. I believe that much better approach to ‘using music’ is actually to make it, and participate in that making actively. That unique experience cannot be replaced by passive listening to any music recording.

The Mastering of a Music City – by Music Canada

Recently, Music Canada President & CEO Graham Henderson introduced a research report The Mastering of a Music City, which summarizes steps recommended for cities over the world, to help develop their music economies. It is an interesting reading and definitely and important document, if it finds open ears in the places where decisions can be made.
What surprises me on the reports approach, is how commercial music is presented here as the most important and almost the only piece of the whole music ecosystem. This is the view of the music from the some decades ago, when everything was measured by sales of sound carriers. I remember those times as I had been part of the system as a musician and publisher, including a member of the national IFPI board. But music world has changed since then and there are more changes coming. Therefore I wonder, why to base such an important document on the mindset of yesteryear?

The emotion generated by a work of art, be it poetry, painting, or music, may be that tangible, unquestionable feeling of a broadening of the self. It is a feeling of fullness, borne from a mysterious rhythm, a kind of flight toward the infinite, lived as a sharing, an exchange, whose source is our interior world.

–Daisaku Ikeda–

Belt Out a Song for Better Health

Interesting article briefly summarizing singing benefits described  in a book by Michael Miller M.D., called Heal Your Heart:

‘Opening our mouths for a bite of the proverbial “apple a day” has its place—but to really keep the doctor away, we should open wide and let out some songs. Why? Because singing has numerous health benefits, recent research shows. And the rewards are ours even if we warble off-key or forget half the lyrics.’

As Dr. Miller explains, bursting into song can:

  • Make you happier and more relaxed
  • Promote cardiovascular health
  • Provide aerobic and respiratory benefits
  • Build strength
  • Think of the world as your stage
  • Be a songwriter
  • Join a musical group
  • Try karaoke
  • Go “caroling” – any time of year

The whole article.

There are also benefits for our heart’s health, which include eliciting positive emotions and easing stress. Dr. Miller writes in his book: “Musical taste aside, it’s clear that music of any genre has a physiological effect not only on heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate, but also on the lining of our blood vessels. The endothelium, that barometer of emotions, dilates to the music the listener finds joyful and constricts during music that provokes the stress response.” There are three ways that music benefits our heart:

  1. Heart Rate Variability – Music can help train your HRV to be more adaptive. Your heart gets used to changing its rate based on the tempo of the music that you are listening. And thus gets used to being more flexible.
  2. Inflammation – Researchers have begun to look into how music can have anti-inflammatory effects on the heart. And they have come to the conclusion that soothing music can improve parasympathetic tone and reduce episodes of congestive heart failure.
  3. Faster Recovery – Dr. Miller discusses a number of studies including one in particular that involved patients who were allowed to listen to their choice of music while undergoing heart surgery. The postoperative time spent in the surgical ICU for those assigned to music was reduced from nearly 28 hours to 22 hours. At first glance, this may not seem like a much shorter period of time, but if you are a patient, the quicker you can be moved out of the ICU to a quieter and more private area, the closer you are to recovery, hospital discharge, and rehabilitation.

The whole article.

Work or Art?

“What people do, quite naturally is – if it is work, they try to figure out how to do less; if it is art, they try to figure out how to do more.”

Seth Godin

CNAL 2015 National Cenference

CNAL 2015 Ben HeppnerLast week I attended the Canadian Network for Arts & Learning (CNAL) National Conference, which took place on March 25, 2015 at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. It was a day packed with very interesting panel discussions, presentations and networking opportunities.
What really impressed me was the amount of like-minded people who dedicate their lives to the arts and to enriching young generations through the arts. My three takeaways from the event are following:

1. I was overwhelmed by the number of creative people on the artistic as well as on the organizational and educational side of the arts. Canada is flourishing artistically – only if everyone got a chance to look more closely “under the cover”. Unfortunately, this artistic abundance is by far not that perceptible in the Canadian media. As one presenter mentioned, Canadians highly value arts, but mostly enjoy consuming arts at home, so if media don’t follow, a large number of great artistic endeavors stay unrecognized by general public.

2. Money is an issue for practically everyone – whether large or small organization, for- or non-profit. Interestingly, fast growing importance in the arts funding play private donors and organization.

3. Canadian governments (federal or provincial) don’t keep up with the private sector, which is a sad fact. Years back, when I was studying and researching development of popular music, I was impressed by the role the Canadian government played in the growth and support of the local popular music in the sixtieth and seventies of the last century. The outcomes of those efforts are clearly palpable up until now, when Canada has a number of global stars on the stage and on the media. Similarly, if the government ceases its support now, results of that could show even decades later, what would be an unfortunate situation, given the much larger market south of the border.

(Photo – Ben Heppner as an MC of the CNAL National Conference)

“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent”

Victor Hugo