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MUSIC THEORY AND LEARNING



An important question is: how does music work in accomplishing the important goals that we have?

It is first important to get a sense of how the brain functions in general and then connect that with the ties to music learning. The pivotal brain cells are the neurons which exist in the numerical billions. Connections between them, during which important information is exchanged, can triple that amount. Furthermore, the two halves of the cerebrum are devoted to different and unique processes--language on one and vision and rhythm on the other. The corpus callosum bridges the two sides and allows two-way information passage. (Hart, 1983)

Other research seems to show that in some way music assists with connecting both hemispheres. By its nature music has the ability to integrate the distinguishment of notes and use of language via the use of the corpus callosum. Multiplying the number of connections increases opportunities for memory storage and future use of the information music conveys.. e.g. language acquisition, learning about other cultures. (Campbell, 1992) In addition, memory storage is enhanced with music so that songs are "chunked" with rhyme and rhythm--the ideas are divided into segments with rhythmical features so that the songs then carry a strong emotional association and motivation which make the ideas embed more deeply in the memory. (Rose, 1985)

Another very important function of music is that it doesn't affect just brain activity but also its consistency of action. Instead of acting in a nonunified haphazard way, it can act as a more complete entity--each part in concert with the others--as well as utilizing more of the brain. Evidence seems to support the fact that music has the capability of transforming chemicals such as serotonin, noradrenaline, and cortisol which ally closely with behavior, feelings, self-concept, and activity levels. This has direct bearing with how we use music in our classrooms. As addressed later in this paper, self-esteem and feelings about others are necessary areas in which to teach and lead our students in a positive way. (Jensen, 2002)

At this point I wish to touch on Gardner's multiple intelligences model. The theory behind it is that there are various disciplines and avenues by and in which a student can learn material: music, movement, logic, linguistics, nature, inter- and intrapersonal interaction, and spatial dimensions. Emphasis is placed upon the fact that in today's world classes should not be taught in a cookie-cutter style but employ the above-mentioned "intelligences" in a coordinated manner to reach as many students as possible. For our purposes in this paper, music is the major focus and it is a very important, though often overlooked, part of the list. Music is what Gardner calls a "hook" to draw in students as far as motivation, interest, and self-confidence in learning, which will then facilitate growth in the other realms. (Gardner, 1993)

Music can work with a number of the senses, and it is very important for the minds, souls, and bodies of the students. It is capable of fulfilling a central position around which the human body's various aptitudes pivot. (Page, 1995)

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