Why Do We Learn Music?

I have a bookmark that is called "Music/Brain related articles". When I click on it the drop-down drops down like an unscrolling manuscript. It's like an endless article IKEA.

I have a bookshelf on the same subject. From aspects of neurology, sociology, statistics, brain studies, behavioral patterns, improvements on this, advances on those, communication, speech development, this connects, this fires up - they all echo each other: Music is the mega exercise machine for your brain! Especially in the stages of development from birth to 12, but not any less important in the declining years, keeping the mind sharp, just like learning languages (Duolingo streak - Day 71!). Being able to play music at an old age is way more fun than doing puzzles, or at least way more stimulating! Teaching adults is a joy! Any music teachers would agree, yes? Never too late!

But all those benefits are not WHY we learn music! Why do we engage in this demanding process of training? Here is a revelation! We learn music to make it! To be making it! To be able to be making it!

I had a very special Christmas. I got to spend it with my mother-in-law. Perhaps, I should call her my mother-in-love since her son and I are kind of a "married on a Post-it" type of couple. But that's a fitting name for this 86 years old fragile woman, who looks lost in her clothes. She lives alone in Sacramento and doesn't have any pets. We visit her every two weeks and help her with her errands. This Christmas bound us close to home and this is where we went.

Her house has more books than a small town's library. Bookshelves are in every room against every wall, but books are also in the closets and in the boxes in the garage. Those are read and found unworthy. Getting rid of those is on our chore list, as well as making a stop at the Barnes and Nobles to fill the new list. Sometimes, I cheat and order from Amazon to her address. Lately, the reading had a lot on Stalin and the Soviet regime, I think it's a nod to my background because the family room selection suggests that the phase before that was on the history of Great Britain, where her own heritage lies.

It's very well organized. She had a class on library art when she was in high school; they taught them to catalog. Tolstoy with Dostoevsky, Shakespeare has his own shelf. Many books are starting to travel to our house because my daughter is actually a bookworm in girly clothes.

There is a piano in the family room. And even though books occupy every flat surface of that room, the piano is free of them, kept sacred. It was made in 1901 and hadn't been played since about 1990 until I woke it up, visiting for the first time trying to cover up the nervousness with a jazzy tune. It hasn't been tuned in ages and its keys are indecisive whether to work for you this time or not. But every time I visit, it seems to shape up for me. And this time was Christmas!

It was a relaxing and comfortable day. Me and the kids played card games, then they read, I worked. Dog did dog's things - both naughty and cute. We tried not to disturb the lady of the house too much... But Christmas without music?

The miracle of technology: I have three volumes of Christmas Carlos for piano and voice (flute is voice) on my Ipad. It's more Christmas Carols than I would ever care for, I thought. But that Christmas day we played them all. We were humming them all day anyway, so when card games retired, me and my bookworm moved to the piano. She got her flute out, we had to pull the head joint a whole inch out, that's how flat that old piano is.

We warmed up with easy ones. My piano skills are enough, and what a great way to practice sightreading for a young flutist over there. We play a few. Deck the Hall, Jingle Bells and now are having a great time, but our hostess isn't joining... I can hear her in the kitchen making soapy water or wiping the counter for the 5th time or doing something equally important and refusing to join our fun. But I have a heavy weapon - I know "the favorite". I know it and I find it! In the second volume - "Oh, Holy Night"

Oh holy night (water stops running)

The stars are brightly shining (footsteps approaching)

It is the night of our dear savior's birth...

We are starting to hear a high chime of a fragile voice.

Long lay the world in sin and error, pining

'Til He appeared and the soul felt it's worth

Between "Fall on your knees" and "hear the Angels voices" there are THREE of us in the room!

Her voice is small but not shaky, To my synesthetic ear, her voice sounds as silver as her hair. But it gets stronger with every "night divine". The song is really high for her and she sounds relieved when it descends to "Christ was born". But! I start the second verse...

She can't help it. The words are coming to her, the throat feels like it's gonna sing no matter what. She gets closer to me, her voice is like a bell in my ear, almost too loud - she is trying to see the words on my Ipad. I zoom in for her. The lady, that reads with the magnifying glass. Imagine that. And she reads, and reads, and reads.

Zooming makes me catch the words too - A thrill of hope. A thrill of hope?

I'll take it. Thank you for the sign, Universe!

There is no stopping her now. We play everything. Agatha on the flute, me reading the bass clef, she is twitting away! All the Bells and the Wenceslas. , Pie Jesu, all the twinkles, all the night, the clear nights, the midnights, the silent nights, all the Harks, Heralds, and Angels, all the holly and the ivy.

Well known, fairly known, less known, unknown.

Coventry Carol, you were discovered and honored!

And then... (i feel that often, but this is the most recent one) then I remembered again, why we learn music. And how these times of making music together can not be replaced by a puzzle or even a card game. We learn music to be capable. Not perfect, not concert ready, but capable enough to spin the time around you into a song with your daughter and your mother-in-love, to create something that will last longer than that time - a memory.

She texted me the next day, thanking me for the "most memorable Christmas". It must be an exaggeration. it's not easy competing with 86 occasions. But giving her that time somehow feels like a bigger gift to myself.

She after texted me asking where to find emojis. Live and learn. Learn something. Always.

After that, she texted me emojis. If emojis do represent - she's had a nice Holiday!

Happy New Year! Keep learning anything!

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