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If You Think Music Is Just an Entertainment, You’re Living in a Nutshell

If You Think Music Is Just an Entertainment, You’re Living in a Nutshell
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We have all been in this situation. You’re in some bar or club, the music is loud, you’re not in the mood to dance. But while the track plays, you notice your fingers tapping, or your head nodding, or your knees bending to the music. To wallflower guy like me, it can cause all kinds of awkwardness.

But why is this? Why can something inherently artificial like music, especially electronic music, cause an almost unconscious physical reaction in people? And also why dance? What benefits does it have? These are questions that have been in my mind a lot lately, so, I began to explore.

When we’re tapping our fingers, something’s happening in our brains.

What is interesting, is that dancing seems to appear in many cultures, without influence from each other. Culture X may have a totally different musical style from culture Y, yet they may at times find themselves moving to the rhythm of their music.

Consider the different kinds of First Nation tribal dances, and European forms, though different in style and motive, they generally form the same function and basically boil down to rhythmic moving to music. Going back thousands of years, there was even a dance culture in ancient Egypt.[1] Dancing then is totally human.

You don’t need to look far to see more evidence of this, babies, with no real cultural expectation or conditioning dance to music (though…not very well).

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On a deeper level, scientists have found that music stimulates certain regions of the brain, particularly the Ventral Striatum, and the Orbitofrontal Cortex.[2] These parts of the brain are key regions generating pleasure, emotional responses and rewarding them. Interestingly these parts of the brain are more stimulated if you like certain songs.

    There are some suggestions that motor regions of our brain are also attuned to this, and also that motor regions of the brain are somewhat triggered when we see others moving. So you may be more likely to dance when others are around you dancing. It is understood that the body derives pleasure from movement. So when this is combined with the subconscious pleasure also got from music, you essentially get double the pleasure response.

    Music is a combination of rhythm and melody. (But we know it’s more than that.)

    Deep down all music is creatively arranged vibrations.[3] These vibrations arranged in pitch, tempo, rhythm, harmony, and melody.[4] Different instruments and the human voice form these vibrations differently, but fundamentally, music is sound, and sound is vibration.

    But this kind of explanation takes all the fun out of it.

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    Pointing out that the Mona Lisa is just bits of color on a canvas, or that John Coltrane was just really good at manipulating vibrations, doesn’t explain why millions of people go to the Louve gallery specifically to see the Mona Lisa or why Coltrane was one of the best Jazz (Jazz of course originating as a fusion of multiple international musical styles) performers of all time.[5]

    There is something else.

    Music is more than just a form of entertainment.

    Generally we consider music either a mere form of entertainment, something brought and used like a good film or video game. At best we see music as just an art form, perhaps the cooler, more popular cousin (who gets invited to all the good parties) of literature.

    However I would go so far to say that music is closer to a form of communication, one that exceeds all cultural boundaries.

    For example, I admit it, I am a really into folk and roots music. Lately I’ve been listening to the Norwegian folksinger Siri Nielsen, her voice is angelic….and I have no idea what she is singing about. If I pick up a book published in a language I can’t read (which is pretty much all languages) then it is inaccessible. But this is not the case with music.

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    All cultures throughout history have had some form of musical culture. This is a nice idea, the next time you listen to your favorite band, or a good piece of music, you’re involved in an activity that humans have done throughout all history.

    And maybe the creation of music is to change people’s mood and mind.

    People have been trying to answer that answer for centuries. Charles Darwin for example proposed that music was invented as a kind of sophisticated come on, like some animal mating ritual. This makes sense as the majority of popular music are love songs, or straight up unambiguously about sex.[6]

    Another popular theory, the theory I personally agree with, was that music was created as a way to form social groups.[7] We often see music now as an individual experience.

    We’re used to being by ourselves, blasting out our favorite song. Thanks to headphones, we can be surrounded by people, but be the only one to hear music. Because of this, it is easy to forget, that prior to the invention and popularity of recorded sound, the only way to listen to music was to hear it live.

    We still love the social aspect of music, we can hear our favorite band in perfect sound quality for a fraction of the price, but few would ever say that listening to an MP3 is a better experience than seeing the band live.

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    This is why we love music and dancing, it is the total humanity of it. Our core biology reacts and gives us pleasure from the music we love, and the music we love brings us together. This is something music has always done, and always will do, and why music matters.

    Infographic credit: FineMinds

    Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

    Reference

    [1] University of Birmingham: Communication Through Music in Ancient Egyptian Religion
    [2] Scientific American: Why do we like to dance–And move to the beat?
    [3] Psychology Today: What is Music Exactly?
    [4] mfiles: What is music?
    [5] The New York Times: The Prehistory of Jazz The Africanization of American Music
    [6] BBC: Is Music Really All About Sex?
    [7] National Geographic: Why Did Humans Invent Music?

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    Last Updated on July 20, 2021

    How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

    How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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    You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

    Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

    Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

    Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

    1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

    According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

    “Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

    Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

    Warming up

    If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

    If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

    Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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    1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
    2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
    3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

    Stay hydrated

    Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

    To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

    Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

    Meditate

    Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

    Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

    Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

    Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

    2. Focus on your goal

    One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

    Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

    Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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    Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

    If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

    3. Convert negativity to positivity

    There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

    ‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

    It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

    Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

    Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

    Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

    4. Understand your content

    Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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    However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

    “No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

    Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

    Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

    One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

    5. Practice makes perfect

    Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

    In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

    Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

    6. Be authentic

    There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

    Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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    Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

    To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

    With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

    Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

    7. Post speech evaluation

    Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

    Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

    We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

    You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

    Improve your next speech

    As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

    Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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    • How did I do?
    • Are there any areas for improvement?
    • Did I sound or look stressed?
    • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
    • Was I saying “um” too often?
    • How was the flow of the speech?

    Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

    If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

    Reference

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