Piano Logic
Meet Patty Carlson
Lecture Series
Music and Healing
MUSIC and the BRAIN
Commentary by P. Carlson
Solutions for America
Exploratory Thesis Paper
Contact Us



                                                                                                            
By Patty Carlson

Abstract

This paper is presented as an exploratory thesis following the background, the development phase, and the student case study program results from the Numeric Language of Music program.  The thesis explores new revelations from the perception of music defined as a mathematical science of structural form and motion and the relationship between music and the brain.  The thesis concludes the Numeric Language of Music as potentially the innate, inherent and remedial language of the brain.

Background
    As a predominantly self-taught musician, I began to play the piano at the age of 21.  I attended a small community college for two semesters majoring in music.
    At the age of 28, I applied for the position of film score composer at Marty Stouffer's production office in Aspen, Colorado.  Marty offered me the opportunity to compose the music for two films in the PBS Wild America television series.  I continued to compose and produce music scores for Marty Stouffer Productions over a period of twelve years.  My reputation as a film score composer grew.  I was retained by additional producers to compose and produce music for films broadcast on ABC and Turner Broadcasting Systems.
    Working in the film production industry, I became intricately aware of the emotional content of the language of music.  A film score composer's most important contribution to a film is the ability to enhance the emotional response to the visual experience portrayed by the film.  For example, in the film "Hog Wild", Marty was unexpectedly charged by a wild boar.  Marty rapidly scurried up a nearby tree.  Imagine why a soft, slow and somber classical musical composition played with piano and flute would hardly be appropriate.  I retained members of the world renowned blue grass band "Hot Rize" and accompanied Marty's unanticipated race up the tree with the performance of a fast paced original composition for banjo and fiddle.
    At the same time I was composing music for the Wild America series, I began to teach private piano lessons.  My first student was a twelve year old boy who had no previous experience playing the piano.  I introduced him to the way the musical tones of the piano were organized, how the piano keys were combined to create music vocabulary, and multiple ways music vocabulary could be combined and performed across the keyboard.  The lesson lasted a half hour.  One week later, the boy returned to demonstrate his own composition.  His performance was amazing.  The composition was filled with soft movements intermingled with passages of extreme intensity, finishing with a dramatic ending.
    My reputation as a music instructor spread rapidly.  I was approached by a film producer from Hollywood and agreed to film two videos of my teaching.  The video series was titled "Play the Piano Overnight".  Play the Piano Overnight quickly became one of the most successful infomercials in the industry.
    One of the common traits among students was the unusual accelerated ability the student demonstrated to compose music with limited exposure to music vocabulary.  The speed with which students produced advanced music compositions from the information presented was almost impossible to believe.  Celebrity Barbi Benton is a perfect example. 
    Barbi had known of my work as a composer for several years.  One day she asked "Why don't we get together and write a song?  You write the music and I'll write the lyrics.  We began to work on the music for the sound track "Images".  Shortly after we started the project, Barbi mentioned that she would be leaving for L.A.  She asked if there was a way she would be able to continue working on our project.  I told her yes, I would show her how to play the piano.  "Patty, I can't take a piano lesson.  I only have 20 minutes before I have to leave".  I said "Just sit down.  I only need 15".  I abbreviated the explanation.  I introduced basic music vocabulary with patterns of motion to perform the vocabulary across the piano keyboard.
    Two days later, Barbi woke me at 5 a.m. with a frantic phone call.  Plans had changed and she had to leave that morning.  She wanted to come over for a second lesson right away.
    A half hour later, Barbi arrived very excited to go to the piano and show me what she had composed with her first lesson.  I was making coffee, at the moment a little less enthusiastic than my student's exuberance.  She went directly to the piano and began to play her composition.
    Barbi struggled a little with the physical coordination of her performance, but the composition was in tact.  I still remember the feeling I had the moment she started to play.  I was listening to an extraordinarily beautiful and unique expression of the language of music. 
    The following is an excerpt from the BBC Dini Petty Show.  Barbi performs the composition she composed from her first lesson.
BARBI BENTON/PATTY CARLSON/BBC DINI PETTY SHOW

The Development Phase
    Early in the development of the Numeric Language of Music, I experimented producing several versions of lessons.  One of the video series was titled Piano Magic.
    The Piano Magic video had been sent to several people who were asked to review the program and offer their opinion.  People were selected from varying backgrounds.
    One participant in the program worked as a professional cinematographer from Los Angeles.  As the cameras began to film Sarah performing her own composition, Sarah recalled her childhood experience learning to play the piano.
SARAH MARSH

    I submitted the Piano Magic video to the Baldwin Piano and Organ Company for review.  The video was delivered to the Baldwin marketing director, John Simpkinson.  John had watched the video, and agreed to film his review.  I had expected an analytical, bland summation of Piano Magic from someone who had been reviewing music educational materials for years.  I was quite surprised by the emotional, and very personal content of John's remarks.
JOHN SIMPKINSON

    Frequently, people approached me expressing intense desire to learn to play the piano.  Occasionally students experienced emotional breakdowns when they first realized they could play the piano.  I specifically recall one student, approximately 21 years old.
    It was a rainy day.  I was running a little late arriving at a friend's house who had arranged the introduction.  The young woman seemed slightly intimidated upon meeting me.  I enjoyed coffee with my friend and the new student, then proceeded to the piano to begin my student's first lesson.
    The lesson went as usual.  I introduced the seven musical tones of the tonal alphabet, the seven primary chords, and began to demonstrate how the vocabulary of the language of music was combined to create fluent musical passages played across the piano keyboard.
    The young woman slowly began to play.  At first she moved her fingers across the keyboard with hesitation.  Quickly she became more confident as the music sounded throughout the room. I thought she was doing quite well.
    All of a sudden, she started to cry.  She proceeded to tell me how she had longed to play the piano most of her life, but she had dyslexia.  She had been told her dyslexia prevented her from learning to read music, and if she could not learn to read music she would never be able to play the piano.

A Comparative Analysis

    The system of conveying musical information I was teaching produced dramatically different results in comparison to conventional music education curriculum.  I devoted my full attention to analyzing the way the two systems functioned.
    Both systems were teaching the twelve tone, equal-tempered system of Western music.  Both systems used seven alphabetic symbols and seven numeric symbols as a means to convey musical information.  The most obvious difference was in the primary objective of each system.
    Conventional music education curriculum focusses on the music staff as the primary visual diagram from which music is taught.  Learning to read music is the first objective.
    The Numeric Language of Music curriculum focusses on the piano keyboard as the primary visual diagram from which music is taught.  Learning the structural form of the vocabulary of the language of music, the performance of music vocabulary, and music composition is the first objective.
    I continued to unravel each system comparing the way musical terms and symbols were defined.  Written symbols of music notation and musical terms remained the same in both systems.  The way musical terms and symbols are defined, what they represent, and the way they function in conveying the language of music, however, was clearly different.
    Among other changes, I realized the Numeric Language of Music altered the functional role of the alphabetic and numeric symbols in the very core of the curriculum permeating the entire course.
    I applied for and was granted a US Patent for the Numeric Language of Music, a new method of conveying musical information.

Music and Healing

    Clarifying the critical distinction between conventional music education curriculum and the Numeric Language of Music was a tremendous breakthrough.  This still did not answer the question I had as to why students of various ages and back ground were able to process the information at such an incredible rate of speed.  In addition, I wanted to understand why music had such an emotional impact on people.
    During my professional career performing in concert, people from the audience often remarked they experienced goose bumps when I played the piano, or they were so moved by the music, it made them cry.  I asked a friend why he thought music would cause people to get goose bumps.  As a medical professional, he surmised the music was stimulating the pituitary gland.
    In a 2008 New York Times article, Dr. Claudius Conrad, a New York surgeon, was interviewed regarding research he was conducting with relation to music and healing.  As a prologue the author posed the question "... to the extent that music heals, how does it heal?  The physiological pathways responsible have remained obscure, and the search for an underlying mechanism has moved slowly."
    The article went on to say Dr. Conrad had recently published a provocative paper suggesting that music may exert healing and sedative effects partly through a paradoxical stimulation of a growth hormone generally associated with stress rather than healing.
    The study itself was fairly simple.  The researchers fitted 10 post surgical intensive-care patients with headphones, and in the hour just after the patients sedation was lifted, 5 were treated to gentle Mozart piano music while 5 heard nothing.  The patients listening to music showed several responses that Dr. Conrad expected, based on other studies: reduced pressure and heart rate, less need for pain medication and a 20 percent drop in two important stress hormones... Amid these expected responses was the study's new finding: a 50 per cent jump in pituitary growth hormone.
    "This jump in growth hormone", said Dr. John Morley, an endocrinologist at St. Louis University Medical Center who was not involved with the study, "is not what you'd expect, and it's not precisely clear what it means."  But he said it raised "some wonderful new possibilities about the physiology of healing."  He added, "The question is whether the jump in growth hormone actually drives the sedative effect or is part of something else going on."
    Further on in the article, Dr. Conrad discussed the music of Mozart.  "An obvious question that comes up," Dr. Conrad said, "is why Mozart would write music that is so soothing."  Mozart's letters and biographies, Dr. Conrad said, portray a man almost constantly sick, constantly fending off one infection or ailment after another.  "I think he composed music the way he did partly because it made him feel better."

Music and the Brain

    In an interview with famed neurologist Oliver Sacks (Wired mag. 10/07), Mr. Sacks was asked "Can playing music alter the brain?".  "Very strikingly" he replied.  "In musicians... there's more grey matter in the cerebellum".
    Research has shown the amount of grey matter in the brain is positively correlated with human intelligence (AndReason 1994).
    In a 2004 video titled "Understanding Language", Dr. Jefferey Elman, a Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science at UCSD, concluded his lecture stating "if there is a language organ, it's probably the brain".

Adam Williams

    One student enrolled in the Development Case Study program demonstrated unusual acceleration in additional scholastic areas.  Over a 6 month period of time, Adam's reading skills had advanced from a first grade level to a fifth grade, 3rd month level.  Adam's hand writing skills advanced from the worst in his class to the best in his class.  The only outside activity to Adam's everyday routine was the study of the Numeric Language of Music in the Development Case Study program.
    It has long been known the study of music is associated with increased ability in additional scholastic areas, though not necessarily to the degree of accelerated advancement Adam experienced in such a small amount of time.  It appeared the new system of conveying musical information Adam learned was related to the accelerated reading skills Adam achieved, but why had Adam's handwriting skills advanced from the worst in his class to the best in his class?  I had been playing the piano and composing music for twenty plus years, and my handwriting is still barely legible.
    I remembered the first time Adam's mother, Tracy, mentioned the incident when Adam's teacher had criticized his handwriting.  Tracy described the teacher's comments as insistent, almost angry that Adam's handwriting was so bad, the absolute worst in his class, emphatic that something had to be done about it.

Music the Remedial Language of the Brain

    My thesis explores the possibility the Numeric Language of Music is the innate, inherent language of the brain.  As a remedial language, the human brain may be capable of creating music to heal itself.
    If Mozart composed music to heal himself, the music vocabulary may carry residual effects.  In Dr. Conrad's study, patients who were listening to Mozart's music experienced a 50 percent jump in pituitary growth hormone raising new possibilities in the physiology of healing.  By listening to the music Mozart composed, did the patient's brain access the vocabulary of Mozart's music to accelerate the healing process?
    Adam experienced extreme criticism over his poor handwriting skills.  Did Adam's brain use the Numeric Language of Music to heal his emotional stress by advancing his handwriting skills from the worst in his class to the best in his class?  Did the Numeric Language of Music present Adam's brain with information which enabled Adam's mind to accelerate advanced achievement in additional scholastic areas?
    The Numeric Language of Music introduces the core structural form of basic music vocabulary from which Western music literature is derived.  The information is presented as a mathematical science of structural form and motion.  From the introduction of this information, students have returned demonstrating original music compositions using complex music vocabulary which was not introduced in the initial sessions.
   
    By presenting students with the concept of music as a mathematical science of structural form and motion, the Numeric Language of Music alters critical data in the research equation of the scientific study of the relationship between music and the brain.  Preliminary study suggests the Numeric Language of Music may be the innate, inherent remedial language of the brain. 

Respectfully submitted,
Patty Carlson

References
Dini Petty Show, BBC
A Musician Who Performs with a Scalpel by David Dobbs, New York Times, 5/20/2008
Interview with Oliver Sacks, Wired Magazine, 10/2007
Grey Matter in the Brain, AndReason 1994
Grey Matters: Understanding Language, Dr. Jeffrey Elman
  
©2010 Patty Carlson All rights reserved.
For permission to reproduce this paper, please contact the Piano Logic office  at (800)429-3488

Top