I’m pretty much as big a fan of the written word as I am of music and the guitar, so I’m always very excited when I see a new book on the subject of music in my local book store – You Are The Music by Victoria Williamson Long-time readers of this blog will know that I’m somewhat fascinated the psychology of music, so this new title really piqued my interest. The subtitle of the book particularly drew me in – How Music Reveals What It Means To Be Human.
In this first book by Williamson, a lecturer and researcher in musical psychology, fellow blogger (and I strongly urge you to check out her blog at www.musicpsychology.co.uk) and classical guitarist, she takes us through a wonderful journey of how music influences us throughout our lives, in many different life situations. She also delves into the realms of what it means to be “musical”, what drives us to make, listen to and dance to music as part of the human experience as well as trained musicians.
As musicians we probably like to hear that we’re a bit special. We practice for hours on end, so it’s got to be doing some good for the ol’ grey matter right? According to Williamson (and many others in her field) this is true. On page 80 of You Are The Music, she takes us through how music changes the brain. I won’t give away as to how or why though – you’ll have to read that for yourselves! I’ll just say the benefits can cross over into our everyday lives though and give advantages in non-musical aspects of our everyday lives.
Williamson also takes us through musical practice and musical learning, both “ordinary and extraordinary” as she describes it. There are some fascinating stories of folks having traumatic incidents only to find they have fantastic music abilities where there were really none previously. She also leads us through and devotes and entire chapter to, music and memory – how we go about memorising music to play, how our brains memorise and recall music that we’ve heard and theories as to the purpose and mechanisms behind those tunes that just get stuck in your head and go round, and round, and round – the earworm. A fascinating read!
Williamson’s style is incredibly readable and very accessible and she is clearly very passionate about her subject. I particularly love how she intersperses little personal anecdotes throughout the book, which creates a very endearing approach. But she is no stranger to communicating her love and passion for the subject of psychology of music having presented a TED talk, the Latitude Festival and the British Science Festival. She’s also written for the NME and her research has featured on the BBC, Sky and CNN amongst other TV channels.
If you’re at all interested in the psychology of music, music in our everyday lives as well as as musicians then I encourage you to go out and grab a copy of You Are The Music
Watch this space for a Q&A with Victoria Williamson herself very soon!
In the meantime head on over to Victoria’s blog at http://www.musicpsychology.co.uk