Thursday, May 16, 2013

Believe in Music

Believe it or not, I owned this record album! That's right. No lie. I really did! The album is Believe in Music from the fine folks at K-Tel. And contrary to what I had heard on television warning me that this album would not be available in stores, I did, indeed, purchase it at a record shop in the local mall.

The title track on this excellent 1973 compilation -- and I'm using the term "excellent" fairly loosely here! -- was I Believe in Music by Mac Davis. The album also included classics like Brandy (You're a Fine Girl) by the Looking Glass, Climax's Precious and Few, and Robert John's version of  The Lion Sleeps Tonight. And come on, you have to admit: it doesn't get much better than that! (Click the link above for a YouTube sampler of the album.)

Mac Davis's song, I Believe in Music, contains the following lyrics:
Music is love, and love is music, if you know what I mean.
People who believe in music are the happiest people I've ever seen.
So clap your hands and stomp your feet and shake your tambourine,
And lift your voices to the sky; tell me what you see.
And okay, so it's not the greatest song ever written (or even close for that matter!), but it does capture well the idea that music can make us feel happy and good -- good enough, in fact, that we want to to clap, and stomp, and shake a tambourine. I can work with that!

A recent article in Science Daily entitled, Trying to Be Happier Works When Listening to Upbeat Music, cites research by Yuna Ferguson, who says, "Our work provides support for what many people already do -- listen to music to improve their moods," In two studies by Ferguson, who performed the study while she was an doctoral student in psychological science, participants who listened to music successfully improved their moods in the short term and boosted their overall happiness over a two week period.

In other words, music can lift our moods. And while I've known that for pretty much all of my life, it's nice to have science back it up, as this study, and countless studies before it, does.

Is music a cure-all for folks who suffer from serious depression? Absolutely not. But for many of us, who find ourselves feeling a little bit down from time to time, a strong dose of some feel-good, up-tempo music is often just what the doctor ordered.

What do you think? Say more about that...

Friday, May 10, 2013

People Talking Without Listening

I was 13 years old  in 1970, the year Simon and Garfunkel released the song Sounds of Silence. I remember sitting down with my friends in our church youth group and having heavy duty "rap" sessions about the symbolism found in the song, dissecting the lyrics line by line in a way that would've made even Paul Simon puke!

It was one of those songs I worked hard to learn so I could play it on the guitar and impress my friends (translation: girls) -- repeatedly practicing the finger-picked minor chord introduction until I had it down just right. (A side note: My mother actually encouraged me to take piano lessons as a boy so, she told me, I would "be popular at parties." Her words, not mine! Of course, she also had me suffer through four years of ballroom dance lessons -- no doubt with a similar goal in mind.)

Anyway, of all the lyrics in the song, the line that particularly stood out to me was "People talking without listening." Even back then as an awkward teenager -- not that all teenagers are awkward, or that I am no longer so! -- I understood that statement to be true. People don't listen well. They didn't back in the 70s, and they still don't now, some 40 years later. We talk a lot, but we don't really listen well at all! Most of the time, while others are talking, we're really just waiting for them to take a break so we can put in our own two cents! Take note of a conversation or two and I think you'll find this to be true.

I've written before about how important listening is to the communication process, and how it's the one component that, unfortunately, gets the least amount of our attention. The bottom line is: we don't listen well. Period. And while that's all well and good if we're just having a casual conversation with friends over dinner, it often spells disaster when we're wanting to have a significant conversation with our partners. Many of the couples I work with cite communication as a "growth area" for their relationship, and I spend a fair amount of time working with couples hoping to improve their communication skills. Suffice it to say, it often takes a significant amount of time and effort.

Why is it that we can hardly wait until the other person stops talking so we can jump in with our own thoughts?  Is it human nature? Self-centeredness? Arrogance? All of the above? Say more about that...