By Elaine Rohse • Columnist • 

Rohse: World needs special powers of music

When Turkish cattle breeder Mehmet Akgul reported increasing his milk yield by 5% by playing classic music for his cows, it was big news.

Said Akgul, “If this music produces relaxation in humans, I thought why would it not work on animals?” And indeed, it did.

Akgul’s theory does engender a question: “How powerful is music?”

The following quote hints at the answer: “Music is one of the very few things that has only benefits, no side effects, a fact that makes it important to human civilization.”

Music manifests to humans in many ways useful and powerful.

As starters, researchers claim that music makes you happier. Researchers claim that it has been proven that when you listen to music your brain releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that stimulates emotions such as happiness, excitement and joy.

It is claimed that when runners listened to motivational music, in competitive races of 800 meters, their runs were faster than when they listened to calm music or ran without music.

And, for you insomniacs, a study produces other statistics that are encouraging. Those who listened to relaxing classical music for 45 minutes before retiring slept significantly better than those who listened to an audio-book or did nothing different from normal routine.

It is suggested that the chosen bedtime music be Bach or Mozart. You could give it a try.

This next research statistic is a bit of a surprise, but interesting if you want to lose weight. It was discovered that softening the lighting and providing music while people were eating resulted in reduced consumption and increased enjoyment.

As to the power of music, we might also consider safe operation of a car. Researchers in The Netherlands determined that listening to music while driving can lead to safer behavior.

Other researchers discovered music can help you learn and recall information, although it depends on which music.

Music before surgery has been found to decrease anxiety. One researcher asserted it was more effective than medication, producing similar results from pre-op patients with fewer side effects.

Research at Drexel University Philadelphia found that the music needed to be classical or patient preference, though.

This power of
music is impressive.

Music was found to increase intelligence as found in a study at Yale University. It was credited with increasing IQs and academic performance.

Research showed that taking music lessons could aid academic performance. A study of healthy older adults showed those with 10 or more years of music experience scored higher on cognitive tests than musicians with one to nine ears of music study.

Warren Buffet, business magnate, was said to “stay sharp at age 84 by playing the ukulele” — pointing out that it’s never too late to learn to play a new instrument.

And this quote bolsters music-power information. New records show that knowledge of music can boost the IQ of young children.

One researcher believes we’re just beginning to understand all the ways this universal language can profit the world. His suggestion is that rather than cut funds from music and art programs in school, why not insist on exploring all the other aspects reached by music that we are continuing to find, so that we may reap those benefits and enjoy their pleasures.

Music is also an important part of our military. Drums, fifes, bugles — even fiddles and banjos — have been heard on military bases and in conflict zones since the dawn of war.

In the U.S. Civil War, music provided a break from daily activities, lifted spirits and kept up morale, for more than 3 million Union and Confederate soldiers, as the war dragged on. And it eventually found its way into the fabric of our lives.

“Taps” is now played at every military funeral, in addition to marking the end of the day at Army bases. I’ll never be able to understand how so much pathos could be written into Taps’ 24 notes.

The war taught us the words of “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again” and “Michael, Row Your Boat Ashore.” We remembered “White Cliffs of Dover” and never forgot “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”

As to the origin of music, it’s about as difficult to trace as is attempting to forecast weather. Many cultures had their own mythical origins as the start of their music, but primitive music dates back at least 6 million years.

The oldest musical instrument is thought to be a flute found in Slovenia, perhaps crafted from a young cave bear’s femur. It has received considerable scholarly attention and stirred much debate.

Even in prehistoric times, the power of music was known.

Music was probably viewed as intrinsically connected to nature and many believe its power is influenced by the natural world. Bells and simple rattles and drums have been found. The first examples of music are usually found on papyrus or clay tablets.

In China, instruments served both ceremonial and practical purposes. The people were accustomed to using them to appeal to supernatural forces.

Many Chinese thinkers equated music with proper morality and governance of society.

Our country is
lucky to have several songs appropriate for special patriotic occasions. Indeed, we have so many that I am not sure on which occasions I should put my hand over my heart. But all I need do is look at someone else to see that person is having the same trouble.

Our country’s national anthem, The “Star Spangled Banner,” earned that distinction on March 3, 1931, with President Herbert Hoover’s signature. As Americans may know, our anthem originated as a poem, written by Francis Scott Key.

Key wrote the poem while watching the bombardment at Fort McHenry by the British ships of the Royal Navy during the Battle of Baltimore during the War of 1812

Key was inspired by a large flag, with the 15 stars and 15 stripes of the time, but stored it in his trunk for many years.

He remembered it when he had need of a patriotic song. Eventually, “The Star Spangled Banner” became our national anthem.

Before that, various songs were used at patriotic gatherings.

For most of the 19th century, it was, “Hail Columbia,” “My Country ’Tis of Thee” and “America the Beautiful.” Then, Kate Smith introduced “God Bless America,” and everyone wanted to sing that.

It’s almost as if ours is such a special country it needs many special songs.

But that is perhaps as it should be. To be powerful, music needs music — and the world needs that special power that music gives.

Elaine Rohse can be reached at


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