Empathy and music-making

Since last week’s post, my vocal re-education has given me new ideas about where to locate the effort and energy needed for belting as well as ways to reduce nasalence in the voice. Contact me if you’d like to know more.

But the events in this country over the past week hang heavily in my thoughts. To be honest, how can I possibly make a case for singing at a time like this? What can singing and music-making do?

After a couple of hours searching articles related to music and psychology, I found Music, Empathy, and Cultural Understanding by Eric Clarke, Tia DeNora, and Jonna Vuoskoski.(https://www.music.ox.ac.uk/assets/Cultural-Value-Music-Empathy-Final-Report.pdf)

The report contains the following quote:

“the case has been made for different perspectives on music’s capacity to afford compassionate and empathetic insight and affiliation, and its consequent power to change social behaviour. These diverse research strands all point to the crucial role that musicking plays in people’s lives, to its transformational capacity, and to the insights that it can afford. There is no single window onto ‘what it is like to be human’, but musicking seems to offer as rich, diverse, and globally distributed a perspective as any – and one that engages people in a vast array of experiences located along dimensions of public and private, solitary and social, frenzied and reflective, technological and bodily, conceptual and immediate, calculated and improvised, instantaneous and timeless.

Indeed, some theories of the evolutionary significance of music highlight the
importance of music’s empathy-promoting aspects, suggesting that a fundamental adaptive characteristic of music is its capacity to promote group cohesion and affiliation.”1

1 Cross, I. & Morley, I. (2008). The evolution of music: theories, definitions and the nature of the evidence. In Stephen Malloch & Colwyn Trevarthen (Eds.), Communicative musicality. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 61-82.

There are no easy answers to the problems in this country today, but I would argue that an increased ability to display more and greater empathy would help. So, keep singing and making music as a means of getting there.

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