Friday, December 30, 2011

Repetition, Repetition, Repetition

Repetition, repetition, repetition…

It was a mantra drummed into me by one music master after another. Although whilst at school I found the process of making music to be pleasurable, the requirement for constant practice was not quite so enthralling. With the impetuosity of youth, I was keen to move to the next bar, the next page, the next piece of music, even the next instrument.

Forty years later, my attitude has changed. Now, the drive to capture every nuance of sentiment from each musical phrase is a powerful force; an irresistible compulsion; an absolute obsession. Yes, playing musical instruments feeds my obsessive-compulsive disorder to a level of sheer gluttony.

However, there is a downside to the above. Whilst the end product is often worthy of an audience, the process of rehearsal frequently drives my wife mad as she is subjected to the same phrase of music over and over again. It wouldn’t be so bad for her if I was confined to the piano; but when the saxophones follow on, and then perhaps some classical guitar, and maybe a quick blow on the clarinet for an encore, well it is sometimes a wonder that I am still alive, let alone married.

The plus side is that playing music keeps me healthy and fit. Research has demonstrated that playing a musical instrument increases the ability to memorise new information, improves the ability to reason and problem-solve, enhances time-management and organisational skills, fosters a team-spirit, develops mathematical skills, acts as physical exercise (good exercise for arthritic joints), develops lung capacity (wind instruments are good for asthmatics), cultivates self-expression, discipline, pride, concentration, communication skills, and acts as a relaxant and an anti-depressant.

Music has lasting health benefits for all ages. Even just listening to music can, in addition to some of the above, reduce blood pressure and the severity of pain, reduce the effects of loneliness and depression, and help prevent or ease the effects of dementia. Recently, it was demonstrated that listening to classical music whilst driving can decrease the chance of an accident.

For readers in their later years who didn’t have a musical education, do not despair; it is never too late. You may never become a virtuoso, but your brain will benefit nonetheless. Even an older brain has the ability to change in a positive way, developing new connections, new circuitry and new levels of neurotransmitters.

The downside is that you might get to the stage where you drive yourself mad with the enthusiastic repetition of it all. The theme tune to Downton Abbey was recently my nemesis. There was a day last week when, after a weekend of piano practice, I just could not shake the tune out of my mind. Every time I set foot in a corridor, ventured up the street, or turned the car onto a road, the mesmerizing, repetitive beat of the music flooded my brain and set the rhythm of my movement. At one stage, it got so bad that I was imagining a yellow Labrador walking by my side. The ultimate cure was to sit down and start on another piece of music (the Labrador has gone, but Nellie the Elephant is proving harder to displace).

Of course, having an enthusiasm to learn means that selecting presents for me is easy; just think of an instrument I haven’t got and I will be delighted. That said, my wife wasn’t quite so pleased when she saw the letter I sent to Lapland…’Dear Santa, all I want for Christmas is a drum kit…’

(First published in the Scunthorpe Telegraph, Thursday, 8th December 2011)

1 comment:

Cheoy Lee said...

Repetition can go either way I guess - it can be either dulling or inspiring and skill-honing. It is what you make of it!

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