Melody Magic: Music Strengthens Social Bonds

social bonds

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]What can’t music do? It makes us laugh…makes us cry. It can make us get up and dance…it can make us sit perfectly still. But did you know that it can strengthen social bonds in some very specific ways? Dr. Boyle brings us the details.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]I watch people for a living. Okay – that’s a bit simplistic, but true. I have to gauge when to shift from one section of a piece to the next, or to start working a different piece all together. I have to estimate when an ensemble has had enough of working one specific measure for 10 minutes. A conductor needs to know when to let a group have a moment of levity, sometimes sacrificing momentum. But through all this observation, I see magic. I see strangers become lifelong friends. I see people find their soulmates. I get to go to a lot of weddings of former choir members who met during a rehearsal. Recently, I received an email from my first “choir couple” letting me know they are expecting. “Is this your first choir couple baby?” they asked gleefully. It was.

Seeing these connections grow right in front of my eyes is one of my favorite things about what I do. And it happens at festivals during which singers are only together for a few days. It makes my heart smile and it happens so quickly, these strong, seemingly timeless connections. I’ve long suspected that the magic ingredient was music. Well, it seems that the research backs up my gut feeling.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]University of California, Berkley is home to one of the best music schools in the country. Recently, in an article found over at the institution’s online journal, Greater Good in Action: Science-based Practices for a Meaningful Life, author and psychologist, Jill Suttie told the story of a magic flute.

I kid, I kid. I couldn’t let the Mozart opera joke just pass by, could I? The flute in question, made from animal bone. was found by archeologists and dated back 35,000 years ago. Even then, when we were picking berries off bushes and hunting mastodon, music was there, an important part of society. That bone could have been carved into a tool for cooking or some other purpose – but no – it was carved into a musical instrument. And friends, music just doesn’t exist in a vacuum. I promise you, the music that came from that flute was heard and enjoyed by people other than the player.

But what about now? What does music do to us that strengthens our social bonds?Dr. Suttie gives us four pieces of the magic to consider:

1. Music brings about cooperation

This happens in many ways. Informally, we might start tapping our toes. Then we tap in synch with the person next to us. Then we smile. Then we dance together!

Or consider this – that flute player from 35,000 years ago? Imagine she was playing – and then another member of the tribe picks up a rock and starts banging a hollowed log. Viola! The first “rock” band. You knew I’d go there, right?

Simply put – cooperation, coordination, and contact. These all arise naturally from music. And everyone leaves humming the same tune.

2. Music boosts the production of oxytocin

What’s that? It’s a naturally occurring hormone that impacts trust levels. So…as you make music with others, you naturally  begin to trust them more and more. Pretty nifty, huh?

3. Music increases empathy

That’s right. Music positively affects the areas of the brain that allow us to understand how others feel. Dr. Suttie points to a study conducted at the University of Cambridge. Young students spent an entire academic year taking part in music game activities. Two control groups had no exposure to interactive musical games. Guess what? The group that took part in musical games – those children saw an increase in their empathy levels.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

4. Music is cultural glue

This magic doesn’t just work horizontally, it works vertically as well. When a child learns a song that her parent sang and falls in love with it, too, the connection is strengthened. It goes beyond this. Dr. Suttie writes:

Music also influences how we think others will get along. In one recent study, participants listened to music or to silence while they watched videotapes in which three people were seen walking either in step or out of step with one another. When asked to rate levels of rapport and sense of unity among the three walkers in both conditions, the participants who listened to music perceived a greater rapport and unity among the walkers than those participants who didn’t listen to music. This suggests that music somehow strengthens our perception of social cohesion among people, perhaps through mistaking our own feelings for those of the people we observe.

– Four Ways Music Strengthens Social Bonds/Jill Suttie

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]So…the magic is real. There’s research and science behind this intrinsically beautiful art form. Music helps us work together…it builds trust…it unlocks empathy for others…and it glues us together as a society. What are you waiting for? Give your child this magical, scientific, life-changing gift. Get them involved. We’re right around the corner singing your song![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][class_finder_form css=”.vc_custom_1470018674168{padding-top: 20px !important;padding-right: 20px !important;padding-bottom: 20px !important;padding-left: 20px !important;}”][/vc_column][/vc_row]