Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Community Resulting From Singing from Birth?

People walking around, the city lit up at night, and not a dodgy neighborhood in the entire city. These were my observations of Georgia at 4 am. People always ask if I feel safe traveling alone and honestly most of the time I feel safer wherever I am than home. Statistically, Georgia is one of the seven safest countries in the world-no crime, no slums, only the occasional peddler or homeless person sleeping harmlessly.
I have no data to support this but I'd like to posit the following: could it be the neurological effects of singing, bonding together as a community, have resulted, at least in part, in such a safe place? It may seem a stretch but according to Berkeley researchers, health researchers, and Oxford researchers (to name a few!), they have shown singing synchronizes heart beats, that it produces oxytocin-the same hormone that bonds a mother to a child or released during sex between two partners, and dopamine-the hormone that gives us pleasure and happiness. It bonds people together-as a community-and research shows that nothing brings people closer together than singing! Why it's such a powerful tool for us development practitioners! Could it be Georgians feel an obligation to be kind toward one another, to follow the Golden Rule, because it's a fellow human that they've sung with? Is it perhaps so safe because of their singing?

Repeatedly, during the conference, Georgians explained how fascinated they were by us doing music for social goals (the simplest definition of community music) and how they could bring that idea to Georgia. How they could develop curriculum, have social outcomes, etc. While this is all fine and dandy, I'd like to question if Georgians actually are the ones being more proactive? That singing for the sake of singing has resulted in not needing community music programs because of its natural ability to unite, to strengthen, to build camaraderie? What social outcome would they want to achieve? Most of the outcomes our programs achieve have already been achieved in Georgia. We want to keep kids off the streets, we want to lower x rate, we want to bring different communities together, already done in Georgia!

Georgians break into song without taking pitch, ever. They just sing three part harmonies in tune. After seeing elementary-aged youth do this, despite being the only one on a part, or being one on a part against 19 others on another (stay tuned for video!),  I asked them, how do you teach this? They just laughed and told me Georgians learn this in the birth canal, it's part of their blood. I suppose it's no different than most Latinx being able to dance-it's part of their DNA.

After a 2.5 hour choir rehearsal with the Georgian maestro telling us to do this, that, and the other thing, I realized how exhausting this type of singing was! And yet, they do it at all times of day-even in the bars at 2 am or walking home at 4 am! Georgian drinking songs are actually quite sacred with references to wine and eternity! Georgia is also the birthplace of wine and one of the oldest Christian nations. The toasting tradition called tamadá, also has Christian roots. I saw churches from the 13th century! And Georgia is known for their hospitality. If you think of the origins of singing, whether from an evolutionary perspective or the church, it brought people together, to connect, and express feelings of gratitude, glory, laud, and honor, and perhaps could be the activity on the logic model that resulted in these outcomes, even if they were unintended.

I still am curious how a song is taught in the Georgian classroom, but until then, I'd like to suggest that we follow their lead! Once again, other countries have so much to teach us! Let's have our babies learn singing in their birth canal and perhaps, just maybe, we'd have a more peaceful and connected world.

On another note, I am proud to say my research will be published in the proceedings of the ISME conference :) Yahoo! #zarathescholar

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