Posted by: 2thdocbob | 24 March 2015

The Power of Positive Singing


During a pensive moment in the musical Camelot, Arthur and Guinevere discuss in song how the ordinary people in their kingdom keep their spirits up in spite of their struggles.

Guinevere poses the question:
“What else do the simple folk do
To pluck up the heart and get through?

Arthur responds: “Once, upon the road, I came upon a lad
Singing in a voice three times his size
When I asked him why, he told me he was sad
And singing always made his spirits rise
And that’s what simple folk do I surmise.”[1]

In a study published in the May 2015 issue of the scientific journal Atherosclerosis, researchers showed a connection between music and healthy cardiovascular performance. I quote from their conclusion: “According to our study, music, both classical and rock, decreases aortic stiffness and wave reflections. Effect on aortic stiffness lasts for as long as music is listened to, while classical music has a sustained effect on wave reflections. These findings may have important implications, extending the spectrum of lifestyle modifications that can ameliorate arterial function.” This means that the ability of the blood to flow from the heart to the rest of the body is enhanced. There are significant medical implications in this understanding. And music is a lifestyle modification that I can easily live with.

Frequently when I am driving, someone pulls up beside me with their windows open and bass thumping loudly, often accompanied by uninventive but obscene lyrics. My first thoughts go to Brigham Young’s statement that “there is no music in Hell,’ and I think I know what they will be listening to. (On the other hand, I hope it’s not just harps in Heaven.)

My second thought is driven by my mood if I’m subjected to the bass for too long (because I’m not all about that bass). I start to feel agitated, and I wonder if that isn’t why so many young people feel angry.

Finally, I think about the counterpoint of my own heartbeat and the bass beat. It is thought that this loud bass can contribute to Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome, although there is no definite connection (yet). But there is solid evidence that certain pitches, especially at high volumes, can disrupt certain biological functions, obviously including hearing. That is why this study caught my attention.

The authors continue: “Our findings may aid in shaping a strategy to maximize the beneficial effects of music. Accordingly, listening to music in general should be encouraged in everyday activities. When music is used as a therapeutic tool, preference of the individual in a music genre should be taken into consideration by the interventionist.”[2]

Musical genre preference brings another element to the discussion. Unless you have been living in a soundproof bubble, you know that music influences your mood. Some music makes you feel good; some music is annoying; some music is very distracting, while some helps you to focus better. Nearly all music conveys some emotions.

And that is why we started singing the blues. It was a way to deal with the hurts of life: particularly the many hurts and injustices that the black slaves in America dealt with. Music helped get them through the struggle. I cannot understand the hardships they faced. But I understand this beautiful response. And their spirituals gave them hope for a brighter future.

The Mormon pioneers felt similarly when they were driven from their beautiful homes in Nauvoo, Illinois and forced to cross the continent to settle in the barren waste that has become a beautiful city. After a long day of walking, they would cheer themselves with singing or dancing to the music of a fiddle. The great anthem Come, Come Ye Saints was “Mormon blues,” and cheered them as they crossed the plains.

Because I have faced some sorrows in my life, I feel the blues. The music moves me in ways I cannot describe. It speaks to my soul. But other genres speak to my soul as well. There are certain tunes that bring a smile whenever I hear the opening notes. And many pieces move me to tears when I hear them. It may be that I feel music more deeply than most people do.

Music also tends to be an acquired taste. We like what we like, often through peer pressure, but also through learning and proper introduction. I can’t dictate what you should enjoy, but I can expose you to things you might enjoy. There are undiscovered worlds of music out there waiting for you.

Regardless of your choice, remember that music has great therapeutic value: not just to our mental health, but also to our physical health.

Alan White (or maybe it was Jon Anderson) wrote:
“Our song It gives us a reason
Our song That good remedy
Music has magic
It’s good clear syncopation.”[3]

Enjoy the magic of the music. There just isn’t anything to compare to it.

After all, that’s what the simple folk do.

[1] Lerner, Alan Jay & Loewe, Frederick © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.
[2] Vlachopoulos, C, et al., Music decreases aortic stiffness and wave reflection, Atherosclerosis 240 (2015) 184-189.
[3] Alan White, Trevor Rabin, Chris Squire, Jon Anderson, Tony Kaye © Carbert Music Inc., Affirmative Music, Downtown Music Publishing LLC, Td Productions, Tremander Songs


  1. I love this. Thank you for the music.


  2. Reblogged this on One Small Voice Scripture Review and commented:
    Thank you for the music.


  3. Interesting that music can help with our mental health, but our physical health as well. Miss you, Dr. Stevenson! 🙂


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