By Allison Campbell-Jensen
Seeking a playlist for preparing for finals, but you’d like choices beyond the scope of Spotify? You’ve heard about trumpeter Miles Davis but never listened to his music? Wondering what “world music” means — and what it sounds like? Want to sample Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, or other big names in classical music, yet no local orchestras are playing live concerts right now?
Just open our Libraries website to the Music Library’s vast virtual musical storehouse of audio and video streaming databases. Music is powerful, moving our feet and our emotions, binding us together with joy or for battle, according to the late neurologist Oliver Sacks in his 2006 piece “The Power of Music,” published in the journal Brain.
“Our auditory systems, our nervous systems, are tuned for music,” Sacks wrote. “Perhaps we are a musical species no less than a linguistic one.”
Recommendations from the music librarian
Depending on what effect you desire from music, Jessica Abbazio, Music Librarian, has recommendations for you. If you are looking to reduce your stress levels, for instance, “something like Bach is very complicated but it is very soothing,” she says. “It’s not like a Beethoven piece, which demands your attention.”
She also suggests work by minimalists such as as Philip Glass. Minimalist music is very repetitive, Abbazio says: “It never changes and goes on and on — and then one tiny thing changes and it jumps out at you.”
You can build your own playlist with these U Music Library resources, Abbazio suggests, with the great advantage that the performances are top-notch. Quarantunes was the happy music playlist developed by our Libraries’ student blogger Abbie Hoffman and a friend. Hoffman wrote: “I am grateful for music this week!” Or just choose an album (someone else’s playlist, really) and listen to music that’s familiar or new to you. Excellent liner notes also are available for many selections, Abbazio says.
Looking for ‘edutainment’?
In the arena of edutainment, the Music Library has plenty of choices, too. You could tap into a series by Wynton Marsalis on music, as he showcases the commonalities between classical and jazz. Documentaries and tributes cover individual artists (from Beyoncé to Barenboim), master classes, and such films as The Art of a People about dance in Bali.
The Naxos Video Library, Abbazio points out, also has a seldom-visited treasure trove of travelogues set to music. You could tour the Chinese cultural and historical treasure of the ancient city of Hangzhou, accompanied by music performed on traditional Chinese instruments, or travel through Scotland, carried along by Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony. With settings in Austria, Italy, Norway, Russia, Spain, France, England, and more, you can go anywhere on these Musical Journeys. And after all, Abbazio says, “Who doesn’t want to take a trip right now?”
Musical resources available to all students, staff, faculty
Abbazio is excited to share these musical and artistic resources, which are available to all members of the U community once they log in. And when you discover something new, think about sharing your recommendations with your family, friends, and colleagues. Whatever style of music you prefer, from pleasant to stirring, evocative to fantastical, she adds, “I would love to learn about everyone else’s favorite music.”
No matter what you like, music is practically elemental for most of us, yet remains a bit a mysterious.
“In the last 20 years, there have been huge advances here [in functional brain imaging],” Sacks wrote, “but we have, as yet, scarcely touched the question of why music, for better or worse, has so much power. It is a question that goes to the heart of being human.”
Source: “The Power of Music,” Oliver Sacks, Brain, 2006 (129, pp. 2528–2532).