Music is the outburst of the soul for some and the medium for salvation for many. But it has some uses that are more practical and mundane, especially in the classroom, where it serves as a proven teaching and learning strategy.
The use of music to teach is more common in the early school years, where by and large it is used to promote language learning and numerical literacy through nursery rhymes. Songs also come to the rescue of teachers when teaching social and emotional skills to children.
But as the student grows and the studies get serious we turn away from music. Why can’t teenagers and young adults benefit from music in their studies? After all, the benefits of listening to music are many. Music has that singular ability to aid meditative contemplation, next only to silence. There may have been many occasions when you have had a difficult lesson to teach and you really wanted the whole class to get it – not just the few bright ones. Music can come to your rescue at such moments. Because of its multi sensory effect, music has the capacity to untangle a complex mental state, break down barriers, calm the mind and prepare it to receive knowledge. In the hands of a sensitive teacher, music can be a revolutionary learning tool, because in many ways it levels the playing field in a class. It gives everyone, even the most reluctant student, a fair chance at learning. Music will not only make class experience memorable but will also make the lesson itself easy to remember.
How music aids learning: Music acts on the brain before it transforms into feelings. According to clinical psychologists who have conducted research on the subject, music helps to enhance cognitive abilities. Being pleasant to the ears, music increases attention span. The cerebral cortex located in the forehead is active when a person is concentrating and paying attention, but music activates the cerebellum which lies at the bottom of the brain near the brain stem. So a combination of music with learning activates a brain circuitry that involves two major parts of the brain and this could be the reason for the high impact learning that has been seen to take place. Memory plays an important part in learning and research suggests that music enhances the bio-chemical aspect of memory and activates the neural circuits.
Indian music and learning: The link between music and learning in the Indian context goes back to the Vedic times. The Sama Veda is thought to be the foundation for Indian classical music. It contains hymns which had to be sung and recited. This indicates that music and learning go hand in hand. Research also supports the fact that learning Carnatic music (and perhaps all forms of classical music) improves phonological awareness, verbal working memory and pitch perception abilities. Raga Bagesri has the capacity to invoke the teacher’s grace and hence enables learning. Raga Shanmukhpriya sharpens the intellect, it is said. Research on the impact of ragas on college students by Karuna Nagarajan et al* of Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusansadha Samsthana University, Bangalore, Karnataka, concluded that memory scores improved immediately after listening to Raga Bhupali of the Hindustani style of music. (Nagarajan K, 2015) Raga Mohana in Carnatic music tallies with Raga Bhupali and has the same notes.
The author is a freelance writer based in Hyderabad. She can be reached at email@example.com.