The Power of Music
Music affects our feeling and emotions
by Janice Ross
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To consider that music is powerful and influences our feelings, moods and behaviour.
Preparation and materials
- You will need to display the words ‘Power’ and ‘Music’.
- Have available the following YouTube videos and the means to show them during the assembly:
- ‘Frozen - Sing Along Edition’, available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wgENlfB5hLk (3.54 minutes long, but you can start from 2.06 minutes if necessary)
- ‘Remembrance Sunday 2018, London: Edward Elgar – Nimrod’, available at: https://tinyurl.com/yykdaxxc (3.43 minutes long, but play extract from 0.22 minutes)
- ‘Nobuyuki Tsujii - Elegy for the victims of the tsunami of March 11, 2011 (St Petersburg)’, available at: https://tinyurl.com/yy2tyfmz (4.59 minutes long, but play extract from 0.36 minutes)
- Have available the audio of ‘Special - Hear BBC Philharmonic’s “Four Notes - Paul’s Tune” by Paul Harvey who lives with dementia’ and the means to play it during the assembly. The full audio is 14.28 minutes long, but if you only wish to play the music itself, play from 3.19 to 5.54 minutes. It is available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p08wnzjp
- Show the word ‘Power’.
Ask the students to discuss with those seated close to them the meaning of the word ‘Power’.
If appropriate, listen to a range of responses.
Suggestions might include the power of machines, natural forces, the ruler of a country and so on. You may wish to direct students’ thoughts towards energy, fossil fuels, renewable power and the good or bad use of power.
- Show the word ‘Music’.
Ask the students whether this is a word that they would associate with power.
Ask the students, ‘Do you think that music is powerful?’
Pause to allow time for discussion.
- Point out that music is powerful! It has the power to change our feelings, emotions and moods. Music can make us feel joyful, sad, angry or frightened.
- Explain that you are going to play an extract from two pieces of music. You would like the students to listen and see how the music makes them feel.
Play an extract from the YouTube video ‘Frozen - Sing Along Edition’ (play at least from 2.06 minutes).
Play an extract from the YouTube video ‘Remembrance Sunday 2018, London: Edward Elgar – Nimrod’ (start at 0.22 minutes).
- Identify that the first extract is from the film Frozen. Students will have experienced different feelings on hearing it! For some, the music will have been enjoyable and will have brought back happy memories; for others, the music may have made them roll their eyes and feel slightly annoyed.
Identify that the second extract is taken from a piece of classical music called ‘Nimrod’ by Elgar. Many of the students will probably identify that this music is associated with sadness. It is a piece that is often played at funerals, including the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales.
- Point out that music has the power to paint pictures in our minds. Explain that the next piece of music was composed by a young, blind pianist as a tribute to those killed in the tsunami in Japan in 2011.
Play an extract from the YouTube video ‘Nobuyuki Tsujii - Elegy for the victims of the tsunami of March 11, 2011 (St Petersburg)’ (start at 0.36 minutes).
Ask the students whether they felt that the piece of music was effective in expressing the sadness of the disaster.
- The enjoyment of music is something that stays with us through to our old age. Music has the power to help us remember things. It has been found that older people who have illnesses that involve memory loss, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s, will perk up when they hear a piece of music from their youth.
Music seems to have the power to trigger memories, and even the words of a song can be remembered. In addition, it has been found that we may keep our skills of music-making even when other skills and memory are lost.
A good example of this is Paul Harvey, an 80-year-old man who lives with dementia. He is also a retired music teacher. In September 2020, his son, Nick, selected four musical notes and said, ‘Dad, what can you play with the notes F natural, A, D and B natural?’
Nick posted a video of the resulting piece, which was later orchestrated and performed by the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra on BBC Radio and television. Let’s listen to it now.
Play the audio of ‘Special - Hear BBC Philharmonic’s “Four Notes - Paul’s Tune” by Paul Harvey who lives with dementia’. The full audio is 14.28 minutes long, but if you only wish to play the music itself, play from 3.19 to 5.54 minutes.
Time for reflection
Music has amazing power, and it also has the power to soothe us. In the Bible, in 1 Samuel 16.14-23, there is a story about a king and a shepherd boy. King Saul suffers from mental anguish and sometimes gets agitated, angry and depressed. The young lad, David, is a shepherd boy who plays the harp and composes beautiful music about God and his creation. When King Saul becomes agitated, David plays the harp to Saul to help him to feel calmer.
Perhaps we could all choose one of the pieces of music that we have heard today, listen to it again when we go home and reflect upon our feelings.
Maybe we could use the power of music when we feel stressed or angry, or even happy or fearful.
We thank you for music.
We thank you for the various instruments that are used all over the world to make sounds that are pleasing to the ear.
Thank you for the beauty of orchestral pieces and for gifted composers.
We thank you for the power of music to bring laughter, and to soothe and lift our spirits.