Jams and togetherness
From Peter Grace, Secretary BUMS Inc
My brother recently had a stroke and I’ve been reading a lot about neuroplasticity – how the brain recovers from injury or damage. One book specifically explored the relationship of music and our brains.
This extract below is adapted from Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks (2007).
As I read this, I realised that ukulele jams mirror the ancient customs of our ancestors thousands of years ago. The magic of performing, dancing, playing and singing together. Even one hundred years ago it was common for families and friends to make their own music. Now recorded music, videos and streaming has taken away that experience for most people.
In all societies, a primary function of music is to bring and bind people together. People sing together and dance together in every culture, and you can imagine them doing so around the first campfires a hundred thousand years ago.
Today, we have a special class of composers and performers, and so one of the primary roles of music is lost. Most people are reduced to passive listeners. They must go to a concert, church, or a music festival to recapture the collective excitement and bonding of music.
Music performed in a group is a communal event. Neurologists have shown the participants experience a binding or ‘marriage’ of their nervous systems. Can you remember being at a concert when the crowd moves together as if they were one?
The marriage of nervous systems is accomplished by the rhythm of the music – not just heard but internalised in the same way by all those present. Rhythm turns listeners into participants, makes listening active and is tied to the beat or tempo of the music. Our brains and minds become synchronised and it’s very difficult to resist being drawn into the rhythm of chanting, dancing, playing and singing.
As ukulele players, we don’t need to go to a concert to experience this togetherness with others. The humble ukulele in a BUMS jam can bind us together in the joy of music.
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