Developing control through music?

Control is a human characteristic. We are always trying to control our lives and the things around us to suit our circumstances. Maybe it is an image we try to project. If we look at the design of our homes, perhaps they reflect the aspirational ideas that we try to give off. In other words, if we want to be noticed or perceived as glamorous, then we surround our homes with things that give off that sort of impression, like expensive vases or designer stuff. The way we dress is a way of control over the environment too. We are trying to impose an impression onto passers-by and influence what they think of us. Ever been on public transport and encountered people who just want to talk loudly. It is a form of control, albeit in a slightly lower form, in the guise of influence. Those that do so frequently want others to listen in on their conversation, to give the idea that their lives were so exciting and full of detail, influencing our impressions of them. Unfortunately, the impression we form of them is of anti-social idiots, even as they revel in the attention.

If you encounter some one like that, what do you do? If you see it from a control over of view, it is trying to dominate that social landscape. And your best form of defence is to demonstrate that they have not been successful. If someone is seeking attention, don’t just passively sit and listen to them drone on and on in their attempt at attention, for passiveness is meekness. Actively yawn at them is what is often suggested – it is a more verbal show that you are not interested!

Control sounds like a bad word, but it is not necessarily so. If we establish control over our lives, we will be satisfied and have a sense of self-assurance. It has been said that perhaps we should teach young children to control various aspects of their lives so they grow up to be self-assured, positive individuals. One way to do so is to involve them in activities that teach these skills, such as piano lessons. Learning the piano involves six or seven different skills, reading music, translating the dots into physical actions, and using the ear to refine what is heard as an additional layer control over the hands. According to the Piano Teachers N4 website, learning to handle these skills simultaneously, instead of focussing on one skill seven times, translates into a multi-tasking ability that helps in life.

Summary: Control isn’t bad – and you can develop control through various activities. Give it a shot!

Communication – verbal and musical

“Are you a hot or cold person?” Now, if you were posed this question by someone you had just met, you might be slighlty flummoxed by the kind of question. If it was by someone you knew quite well then you might have to gauge exactly what they meant – after all, to describe yourself as a hot person would be to imply that you are quite bad-tempered, prone to bouts of anger or irritated at the very least of provocation, whether verbal or physical. And f you were to describe youself as a cold person, it would be to imply that you were actually lacking in feeling, devoid of empathy. It would be a choice with not much positivity, a lose-lose situation. You would rather describe yourself as a warm person.

And what if – upon closer probing – you realised that there person who had posed you this had not actually meant to question your personality, but actually meant to ask you about your preferred weather? Are you a person that prefers the hot weather, or one that prefers the cold weather. You might breathe a sigh of relief. You were not being questioned about the kind of person you were – not that kind of intrusive question – but more a general question where you could express a preference without fear of being judged. You might breathe a sigh of relief. Awkward moment ove. Cue nervous laughter. Cue embarrassed laughter from the person who had posed that question.

Of course, if it had been someone you know, and you realise that their intent was not to question your personality, you would have double-checked. But if it were a first time impression, you might have decided not to continue your acquaintance with the other person, who may not have intended that slight. It goes to show how we need to be more precise so that our communication is not misunderstood.

But sometimes communication can be expressed on a non-verbal manner. Using music to express emotions can be equally effective. If you are feeling sad, play music that sounds slow, is in a minor key, and mournful. If you are happy, music that is fast, lively and in a major key may best express your mood. It is no wonder that music is prescribed as a means of help to those who suffer from autism, and who may have difficulty expressing their innermost feelings. Songs such as Johann Pachelbel‘s Canon can allow to emote feelings that are hard to express.

Learning the piano may be a useful aid because the piano allows you a different range of emotions. Feel angry? Play music that has power chords (usually heard in rock songs.) Those who also take it up may eventually also do piano exams, and get a useful qualification out of it.

Inventions and design

You may debate the notion that human beings are a creative bunch but if you examine closely our mannerisms and the things we do, you may find yourself proven wrong – human beings are creative. It is perhaps an ancestral trait we have genetically adopted from our early ancestors, who had to learn to make weapons, use fire, make inventions to catch animals for food, or to improve farming, and to make these inventions better so as to improve yield. Or if you know someone at work who is physically lazy – to use the non-politically correct term – you might even say their creativity extends to words and thinking up reasons not to do things! There are two sides to creativity!

One of the most creative inventions ever to be invented was barbed wire. Quite simply it consisted of two lines of wire coiled together so the barbs were held in place and could not be easily separated. The inventor of barbed wire in 1876 was John Gates, and he used his invention to propel himself to great riches. But it wasn’t just the physical sale of barbed wire, which ballooned from 36 miles of production to 268,000 miles in just six years. Gates also displayed a keen business sense and gambler’s nose, and would wager against others that his product could keep wild Texan longhorns enclosed. So not only did he come up with an invention, he also came up with betting to earn more from his invention, and in the process get some free advertising from that as well!

If you look at the things that are around us – be they the light switch, electric bulb, computer mouse or piano – these things have become commonplace, but the design and the breakthrough to have come up with them would have required ingenuity and skill. (Incidentally, here is a list of interesting facts about the piano you may want to consider.) So the next time you are out and about, look at the things around you – it may be people cycling, or motorbikes – and try to appreciate the thought and design that have gone into it. Who knows, it may give you inspiration for your own!

Single parenting; a musical perspective

How are single parent families looked upon in your country? I suppose it depends on how liberal your society is. In western societies, single parent families are an increasing phenomenon and no one bats so much as an eyelid when someone claims to be a single parent. In more traditional societies such as those in Asian societies, families with parents who have separated are still looked upon as a social stigma, as if the parents are deficient in some way, and failed in their own relationship. And it can’t be easy growing up in these kind of families. There is of course the logistical problem of making sure children spend alternate amounts of time with both parents. But it is difficult not just for the parents. Children end up often spending different weekends with different parents. It may be awkward if both parents have partners, and the child ends up having to refer to mum’s boyfriend and dad’s girlfriend to other friend’s parents.

In Japan, a single mother spoke of how her daughter suffered anxiety as the result of being a child with no father around. The child was ostracised by her classmates and as a result, did not want to go to school and suffered from social anxiety. Gradually as the girl showed signs of going on a downward spiral as an emotional response to her parents breakup, her mother took drastic action. She had never heard from her husband, the child’s father, and had no intention of reconciling with him. Instead she made contact with an escort agency and enquired if there would be actors willing to play the role of a father who had left the family but sought some form of reconciliation. Now, this is a strange sort of request – most escort agencies only hire actors to play boyfriends or partners for an event or a day, but this was a long term job, so to speak. And it was a long-term attempt at a white lie in order to boost the child’s confidence.

The pianist and composer Camille Saint-Saens never knew his father; Victor died two months after his son was baptised, on the anniversary of his first marriage. Camille did not display much anxiety with the lack of a father figure, and went to achieve great heights in his music career. The lesson here to learn is perhaps not to let circumstances in life defeat you!