Musical Activity and Well-being

A relationship between participation in musical activity and well-being has frequently been observed in recent research reports. Of these, some propose various well-being-related correlates of musical participation, but the varying samples and foci leave researchers without a reasoned appraisal of these correlates or a data-driven categorization of them. To address this lacuna, the current research reviewed of existing literature, identifying 562 benefits of well-being benefits perceived to be associated with musical participation. These items were used as the basis for developing a new quantitative measure to evaluate the perceived benefits of well-being arising from music participation. Principal axis factor analysis of data using this new, 36-item measure identified five discrete dimensions: mood and coping, esteem and worth, socialization, cognition, and self-actualization. The development of this well-being measure addresses a gap in the research and provides a tool for future research concerning musical participation.

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Music Lessons and Intelligence

The present study investigated whether the association between music lessons and intelligence is mediated by executive functions. Intelligence and five different executive functions (set shifting, selective attention, planning, inhibition, and fluency) were assessed in 9- to 12-year-old children with varying amounts of music lessons. Significant associations emerged between music lessons and all of the measures of executive function. Executive functions mediated the association between music lessons and intelligence, with the measures of selective attention and inhibition being the strongest contributors to the mediation effect. Our results suggest that at least part of the association between music lessons and intelligence is explained by the positive influence music lessons have on executive functions, which in turn improve performance on intelligence tests.

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Carl Thomsen

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An Exploratory Study of Narrative Experiences of Music

Listeners frequently talk about music in terms of imagined stories, but little empirical research has investigated this tendency. In this study, 47 participants listened to eight 90-second musical excerpts—four of which featured programmatic music composed between 1857-1935 and were selected by music theorists to feature high contrast, and four of which featured Baroque and minimal music and were selected by music theorists to feature low contrast. After each one, they answered a variety of questions intended to assess their narrative engagement with the music. Brief assessments of personality and general listening tendencies were administered at the end of the session. Results showed qualified support for the notion that contrast makes people likelier to hear music in terms of narrative, with stylistic familiarity and enjoyment seeming to play a greater role. The most striking aspect of the results was the emergence of broad areas of consensus among the free descriptions of imagined narratives. People with high AIMS scores also tended to experience more narrative engagement with the music, as did people low in Extraversion and Conscientiousness.

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Music and Language: A Developmental Comparison

The possible links between music and language continue to intrigue scientists interested in the nature of these two types of knowledge, their evolution, and their instantiation in the brain. Here we consider music and language from a developmental perspective, focusing on the degree to which similar mechanisms of learning and memory might subserve the acquisition of knowledge in these two domains. In particular, it seems possible that while adult musical and linguistic processes are modularized to some extent as separate entities, there may be similar developmental underpinnings in both domains, suggesting that modularity is emergent rather than present at the beginning of life. Directions for future research are considered.

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Shigeru Umebayashi

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Confucius

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