LOUD MUSIC, rudely, unpolitely, SHOUTily (in this case, PJ Harvey, The Piano) exorcises a house like nothing I know.

For hours today, I was living mouse-like politely in my own hole, intensely communicating away, nibble-nibble, by email, by face, by ‘phone and by smile and then  – I stopped. But  – gah, horror – the flavour of the careful listening stayed. It sat on me, squishing me down.

I turned up the volume. Some more. More, up to ‘naughty’; more, up to ‘taking the proverbial’. And now, right now, PJ (on a repeating, monomaniacal loop, but happily between the Pixies and Placebo should I need variety) is deafening anyone within range.  I can’t quite get it loud enough, tho’.

We forget the importance of music too often, I think. In the last fifty years, we must have become more singularly-visual (since TV and latterly, computers). Music might accompany  this new visual intake, but in its own right, it must receive less attention.

But music has a power over our selves which is rivalled only by great art; and the beauty is that the tinkliest pop song can bring you to nirvana (with a capital N, if you like). A combination of notes, a sequence of chords, a variation in volume, pace, tempo and instrumentation all quicken or calm the senses, evoke moods and memories, inspire ideas – it takes us backwards, forwards, down, up and inwards.

Research shows that stroke patients recover a wider range of brain functions and are less depressed than those exposed merely to language. Einstein put his braininess down to his violin playing (he was slow at school, written off by teachers – until his mother bought him a violin). And many animal species use music in ways similar to us (humpback whales’ songs are structured much as ours, although last up to 21 hours). Seals and of course, birds, also sing – and learn songs, most importantly. For them, however, it’s always social – whereas we practice (hum, howl) alone as much as in groups.

For us, musical euphoria lives in the same part of the brain as sex and drugs, with endorphin rushes. Male birds have dopamine rushes when they sing to females (girl birds don’t sing): they enjoy it.

Get up and SING – or at least, turn up the volume (not for too long, mind you; lifelong tinnitus is too hig a price!). Beat the gloomy blues (one of the search terms that has brought people to this site in the last few weeks is ‘miserable’, sadly.) Reclaim your dopamine!

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