with a song in my brain

There are things you forget when you segue between mom-hood and grandma-dom. One is the way a kid’s song gets stuck in your head and refuses to leave…then dissolves in giggles when you try the adult maneuver: “Well, then, I’m just going to ignore you.” Right.

Which probably explains why, when I pressed the UNLOCK button on my Subaru remote today, I distinctly heard, “Elmo had four ducks.”  No joking. That was the YouTube song http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0LEYwoooVfw  I played for Lily last weekend when she was getting antsy.  It’s your typical preschool patter–goes from four ducks to one and back to four–but it does so with some mightily impressive quacking and counting.  Kinda like the debt ceiling discussions  that Boehner and Obama are holding. And, it seems, both Elmo’s song and their sit-downs are ending up pretty much where they begin. But I digress.

My niece Angie, an elementary school music teacher in Urbandale, is making me a believer in the power of music to speed learning processes, information retention and all the dimensions of education that experts agree are priorities. The proof has been building for decades, with current brain science reinforcing those findings. So why, I’m curious, do we as a society–and, theoretically, a civilized society–find it so hard to keep music programs funded?

My best guess is that it’s a left-brain/right-brain thing. People invested solely in the numbers numbers don’t/can’t/won’t “see” that we’re no longer living in yesterday’s either/or world. It’s like choosing to work mathematic problems with only odd or even numbers. What would it take, I wonder, for us to shift our sensibilities into the and/also realm? Seems to me that investing a few more C-notes in E/G/B/D/F/A/C-notes seems a pretty smart place to start.

Which brings me to my new favorite book (although it’s been around about five years) and the author’s so-cool website: http://www.yourbrainonmusic.com/ I particularly like the way McGill University neuroscientist Daniel J. Levitin
explains the possibilities:

“By better understanding what music is and where it comes from, we may be able to better understand our motives, fears, desires, memories, and even communication in the broadest sense. Is music listening more like eating when you’re hungry and thus satisfying an urge? Or is it more like seeing a beautiful sunset or getting a backrub, and thus triggering sensory pleasure systems in the brain? Why do people seem to get stuck in their musical tastes as they grow older and cease experimenting with new music? This is the story of how brains and music co-evolved  – what music can teach us about the brain, what the brain can teach us about music, and what both can teach us about ourselves.”

I’ll give that thought a 95…it’s got a cool melody, a strong beat and it’s easy to dance to. (And if you’re too young to have heard that line a hundred times on American Bandstand, here’s a flash-back. 😉 : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KqucrXm54Ts&feature=related

Image: Thomas Schultz (Wiki) Fiber tracts in the brain connecting left and right hemispheres.

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