by Fudia Muhammad
Nope, this article is NOT about the 1965 musical, starring Julie Andrews as the singing “nun,” who brings warmth and music into the home of the Von Trapp Family. But, this article is about the incredible effects that music can have on the brain and the body.
You may have heard ofthe Mozart effect: “A term that has been applied to the controversial conclusions from various research groups that listening to Mozart’s music may make a person more intelligent. The effect, if real, has been attributed to short-term improvement in performing mental tasks that require spatial-temporal reasoning.” This concept, introduced in the early nineties, has led to several additional studies and books analyzing the correlation between classical music and brain development. The idea is that listening to certain types of music, particularly for infants and children, will lead to higher intelligence, primarily in the areas of math, memory and language. The research is convincing, but while listening to classical music may be mentally advantageous, even more impressive cognitive benefits are found when one actively learns how to read, play and create music.
The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad said that music, medicine and the science of color is at the root or essence of God’s true religion. The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan stated that he also said, “Those who understood or knew music, medicine and the science of color would make his best ministers.” Music is not a man-made invention, only his discovery. Music – melodic sounds, rhythms, vibrations and harmony have always existed, as they originated simultaneously with Allah’s (God’s) glorious creation.
No one was more attuned to the power of music than Mother Tynnetta Muhammad, who was not only one of our wisest scholars, but also a self-taught musical genius. Her studies unveiled that the genetic coding of our DNA is linked to music. According to Mother Tynnetta Muhammad, “We are all composed of the frequencies and vibrations of sound, light and the chemistry of our atomic and subatomic structure in space time. If we were able to properly apply this science, we would be able to heal ourselves completely of all illnesses and diseases.”So the application of music not only stimulates brain activity, but can also heal the body. This knowledge has led to the burgeoning field of musical therapy.
According to Harvard Medical School, there is now evidence that music is not just mentally therapeutic, but physically healing. Their research attests that music therapy improves invasive procedures, including lowering the use of opioid painkillers. Music therapy has helped to restore lost speech; it reduces the side effects of cancer treatment; it aids in pain relief; and it improves the quality of life for dementia patients. Additional studies have shown that music has beneficial effects for the heart rate, blood pressure and the entire cardiovascular system. Extensive research by Fabien Maman reveals, “Human blood cells respond to sound frequencies by changing color and shape. These findings demonstrate sick or rogue cells can be healed or harmonized with sound.” A similar study by Dr. Claudius Conrad found that patients’ brains released 50 percent more pituitary growth hormones with music, which reduces inflammation and promotes healing.
For those particularly in the Black community who may have an aversion to classical music, it is important to disabuse ourselves of the notion that this is “white folks” music. Music, like mathematics is a universal language. Furthermore, white people are guilty of stealing, repackaging and successfully selling classical music, opera and ballet to the world as being exclusively European with white origins. The truth is that these artistic expressions are all a part of a massive stolen legacy from Black Africans which also included literature, architecture, science and a host of inventions.
The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan is a classically-trained violinist who was introduced to the violin at the age of five or six. He gave up playing the violin professionally and the entertainment industry as a whole just a few months after becoming a registered member of the Nation of Islam in the mid-1950s. However, he was blessed to return to his love of music in the early 1990s, a love that culminated in May 1993 with an acclaimed performance of Felix Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor, Opus 64 – he was accompanied by the New World Orchestra conducted by Michael Morgan. Nearly a decade later in 2002 he performed the Beethoven Violin Concerto in Los Angeles. A compilation album with many of today’s well-known artists will soon be released, where the Minister’s musical artistry will once again be on display. The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan has stated that he wishes to inspire young Black children to consider learning how to play classical music and stringed instruments.
In the Bible, we read about David the Psalmist, who is said to have had a heart after God’s heart. David played a stringed instrument, a harp or a lyre. According to 1 Samuel, King Saul sent for David who could heal him through music. King Saul was plagued with evil spirits and when those spirits came upon him, David would heal him by playing his instrument. Interestingly, David began as a popular musician who later became great by killing Goliath. Eventually after King Saul’s fall, David became King and takes the Kingdom to great heights. We also read in the Holy Qur’an where David and his heir, Solomon, are taught to understand the speech (singing) of birds (27: 15-16) – yet another sign of the ubiquitous essence of music.
There have not been enough studies with other music genres to draw sound conclusions about their cognitive benefits; but the brain does appear to respond to classical music primarily by boosting cognitive function. It is clear that babies and children benefit from listening to and engaging with classical music. We know that it is soothing – this is why so many baby toys, swings and mobiles play classical sounds. But it also improves memory, verbal intelligence, math skills and promotes creativity. Music is intrinsically coded in the genetic make-up of the original people of the earth. That means it comes natural to Black and native people. An immediate introduction to music as an infant proves this point. We are born with rhythm. It does not take a lot of effort on the part of parents to get children to gravitate toward melodic sounds. Just a simple initiation to classical music and watch nature take over.
Other studies have also shown that when non-musicians are given musical training, there is a marked change in their brain activity and function. This should encourage us not to stop at simply playing classical music for our babies, but to give them music lessons. The discipline, creativity and cognitive skills that are required to read, interpret, play and then create music can be transferred to almost any field of endeavor.
The gift of music is given to all of us by Allah (God); so it is difficult to find anyone who does not enjoy or at least appreciate good music. The difference is that the ability to express that gift lays dormant in most; while others have awakened to their genius and used it to heal and to advance mentally. And just as important, many have also found music to be a vehicle to communicate, to entertain and to unite. But what we all know for sure is that our quality of life is exponentially enhanced with the sound of music.
(Sister Fudia Muhammad is a member of Muhammad Mosque No. 64 in Austin, Texas. She is married to Student Minister Robert L. Muhammad and they have been blessed with four children. Sister Fudia holds a Master’s degree in Education – she is a writer, an educator and an advocate for God-centered child-rearing.)