Hillside Festival (in its 34th year) is my favourite event of the year – a weekend of fabulous food, music and community – and this year my contribution is to run a group singing workshop. So many benefits of singing together and such a fitting place to celebrate this.
Thank you to everyone who took a precious festival hour and shared it with us at the singing workshop. For those of you who attended the workshop (and maybe even those who didn’t), you might be interested in having some of the links and resources I mentioned. Here they are:
All Together Now – workshops, women’s choir, co-ed choir, women’s music weekend
Choir Nation – has drop in choir groups in Toronto, Niagara and Hamilton
Choir! Choir! Choir! – drop-in group singing that also does lots of performing (Clinton’s Tavern, Toronto)
Choir Place – helps you find a choir (international)
Sing Out – supports and promotes traditional and contemporary folk music
Research on the benefits of singing:
Singing & Health – research review
Singing Changes your Brain – article in Time magazine
The Neurochemistry of Music – Mona Lisa Chanda & Daniel Levitin
The World in Six Songs by Daniel J. Levitin (author of Your Brain on Music) seemed like a gimmick, categorizing music into 6 boxes to show its influence on human evolution and culture. But I got past this premise to see the book as a vehicle for exploring the role of music in our lives – individually, socially and historically.
Levitin groups music in the functional categories of: Friendship, Joy, Comfort, Knowledge, Religion, and Love. His supporting evidence for the importance of music in human culture is heavy on evolutionary biology and biochemistry. How did music become a part of every know human culture? The ability to create and/or appreciate music gives a survival advantage; for example, the ability to act in a unified way when battle is imminent, the sharing/memorizing of important knowledge without written language, or (more obviously) the ability to attract allies and mates. The experience of engaging in music stimulates the release of various neurchemicals that make us feel good (dopamine) and facilitate bonding (oxytocin). Levitin uses everything from hymns to punk rock, from national anthems to lullabies, as examples of how music is linked to human endeavours.
I found that Levitin’s arguments were rambling, with a good dose of name-dropping. The six categories overlapped and some of the examples used were stretched to make them fit the chapter heading. In the end, Levitin does not make a convincing case that music’s role in human culture can be captured in those limited categories. But – maybe because it resonated with many of my beliefs about music – I enjoyed the discussion of music as catalyst for social bonding and sense of well-being.
[The World in Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature, Daniel J. Levitin (2008) Viking Canada, Toronto]