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Music Matters

by Helen Bryant

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To illustrate how music affects us as individuals and communities. 

Preparation and materials

  • Choose a piece of well-known and a piece of less well-known music and have the means to play them when indicated during the assembly. Also choose two other pieces of music that evoke completely different emotions, such as feeling tense or scared (as we do when we hear the theme from the shower scene in Psycho) and then feeling calm and peaceful.

  • If this is to be a class assembly, organize in advance for a few volunteers to come up and explain why certain pieces of music are important to them, which memories they trigger and how they make them feel.

  • Choose a calm piece of music, such as ‘Spiegle im spiegle’ by Arvo Pärt, to play during the 'Time for reflection' part of the assembly.


  1. Play the chosen pieces of well-known and less well-known music.

    Do you recognize either of these pieces of music?

    Try to get everyone involved in working out the answers.

  2. Some music is well known, some less so.

    Music accompanies many of the most significant moments in our lives. It is a powerful trigger of emotional memories. Indeed, so strongly are they associated that we can tell the stories of our lives in in terms of the music we were listening to at the time.

     you feel brave enough, you can go through the chapters of your life mentioning the music you associate with them.
  3. Our brains each have a complex set of interconnected pathways for processing music. These pathways involve a wide range of parts of the brain. In fact, it depends how our brains are wired as to the kinds of music we like or don't like. Your taste in music will be very different from that of your parents and even your friends.
  4.  Music can inspire, excite, frighten and influence our moods. It can make us feel elated or reduce us to tears - though not necessarily always in a bad way! Music stimulates activity in the brain, which is what gives music its emotional impact.
  5. I am going to play you two more pieces of music. Think how they might make you feel.

    Play the two other chosen pieces of music that 
    evoke completely different emotions. 

    As you can hear and probably feel, music can have an impact on the whole person.
  6. This link between music and the emotions can help to explain why music is so good at conjuring up memories. The prefrontal cortex responds to familiar pieces of music and links them with the autobiographical memories that are most relevant to us.
  7. If this is a class assembly have the volunteers who have prepared to do so come up and talk about the pieces of music that mean something to them.

  8.  Music can also trigger physical reponses in humans. We can get shivers down our spines and the hairs on the backs of our necks really do stand up, our pupils may widen and heart rate quicken. Music provokes a response in the brain and the whole body also reacts to it. So, next time you listen to a piece of music, remember that you are listening with your whole body, not just your ears, and your brain is storing the music and the memory that goes with it for another time. 

Time for reflection

Let's just listen quietly to this lovely calm music before we go back to our classes. 

Play chosen calm piece of music, such as ‘Spiegle im spiegle’ 
by Arvo Pärt.


Chosen calm piece of music, such as ‘Spiegle im spiegle’ by Arvo Pärt

Publication date: November 2015   (Vol.17 No.11)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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