May 4, 2017

Experience the Entertainer’s High—how Music Moves Us.

The Entertainer,” a bouncy ragtime tune, remains as one of my all-time favorite songs from childhood.

When my mother perkily played it on our piano, my little body immediately moved. It felt like my heart smiled every time.

At the same time though, it made me so mad. She could not, absolutely would not, share the words of the song with me. How could she be so cruel? Despite my insistent query, I never learned the lyrics.

Obviously, my age was showing. Scott Joplin did not write words for his famous song. Yet, I wanted those lyrics to explain how I felt.

Even today, when my words won’t come or my emotions cling inside me, music speaks on my behalf. It flips my attitude in an instant. Snap! Whether I’m streaming tears or spinning out in stress, I break, relax, and release when the sonic vibrations hit my ears. I belt the ballads, cry out the chorus, and bust a move when the moment strikes.

I know I am not alone in this. For the past few months, I have been privileged enough to run the Elephant Radio Facebook page. Whenever I shared certain quotes, articles, or songs on the feed, the views jumped and the comment box came alive. Anything by Johnny Cash, Janis Joplin, Joan Jett, or other classic acts always did the trick. Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix, on the other hand, brought in a virtual crowd.

We feel music.

When we listen to music, our bodies show all the symptoms of emotional arousal. Our blood redirects toward our legs and soon our toes tap. The pupils dilate while our pulse and blood pressure rise. Our brains become alive.

We get high.

In 2011, research with PET scans revealed that music triggers the release of dopamine, our bodies’ pleasure juice. It is responsible for the warmth in our hearts and the shivers down our spines. We knew this by our physical clues, but now have the proof.

We uncontrollably experience music.

Conductor Michael Tilson Thomas (all call him MTT) describes how changes in musical notes play with our emotions. He reminds us how major chords sound joyful, and minor ones sad and dreary. MTT notes how this simple difference on a piano is merely two notes. He says, “The big difference between human happiness and sadness (is) 37 freakin’ vibrations.”

Was that all that attracted me to “The Entertainer” long ago?
Listen, and decide.

Beside the upbeat tempo, the joyful noise definitely derives from the key of C Major: The happy key.

This year, many songs rotated on Elephant Radio. Some caused quite a stir and some…eh, crickets. Hundreds of happy emojis, hearts, and shares appeared, plus a few sad faces.

By bringing mindful music and lyrics to so many people everyday, I was humbled. Helping others discover their own emotions and physical connections through music was an honor. Perhaps a song lifted a smile and urged someone to sing along or held a newly broken heart through a song.

My only prayer is that no one felt alone.

I’m going to share a few secrets from behind the scenes. Which songs gathered the most reactions? What key struck the audience most? What songs inspired a high?

The Elephant Radio Hit List:

Just Breathe” by Willie Nelson {C Major}

In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel {D Major}

Melt with You” by Modern English {C Major}

Hold On” by Alabama Shakes {F Major}

Sounds of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkle {D Minor}

Society” by Eddie Vedder {G Major}

Starry Starry Night” by Don McLean {G Major}

Lotus Flower” by Radiohead {D Minor}

Blackbird” by The Beatles {G Major}

You Are the Best Thing” by Ray LaMontagne {B Major}

One Love” by Bob Marley {C Major}

This last song surprised me, and I thank all who “liked” it—an absolutely beautiful piece.

Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica and Viktoriya Yermolyeva, {E Minor}

Did you listen along? How was your experience? Did the minor keys make you somber? Did the major keys lighten your load and lift your feet?

If the list isn’t your cup of tea, try the experiment with your own favorite tunes.

As a child, I didn’t want my mother’s piano music to end. I wished she would play it forever.

There may be silence when the songs stop. Yet, maybe, just maybe, we will find the music will play on.
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Author: Kate Fleming 
Image: Wikipedia Commons
Editor: Danielle Beutell

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