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The value of music making in the wellbeing sector – why I think it is important by Michelle Holloway (Shadow Artist on Quench Arts’ Wavelength project)

I love talking, listening, discussing, singing, sharing and making music…but I’ve never found blog writing easy - even when writing about a topic I feel for so passionately. My brain apparently moves too fast to put things concisely onto the page… a dilemma I think I last had to face when writing my Wavelength blog in 2017!


So, to start with, there’s just a few definitions that I want to solidify in order to fully explore the question of this blog.



Firstly, what is the ‘wellbeing sector’?

Well, a ‘sector’ is a part of society that can be separated from another due to its own individual characteristics.

And, then, what is ‘wellbeing’?

According to the Mind website, it is a state of being comfortable and happy, with a positive self-esteem, confident in oneself and ones abilities to live and work productively, whilst feeling engaged with life, and expressing a range of emotions and also building and maintaining good relationships…all whilst adapting and managing the stresses of daily life as we weave through change and uncertainty - so showing resilience to cope when times are tough.


Phew…not much to demand then?!



Secondly, what is ‘music’?

A dictionary might describe music as a collection of organised sounds and silences, words and melodies, harmonies and dissonances, rhythms, textures, dynamics; an art form; a cultural activity. But we know that music is so much more than that!


So, I ask the question again, ‘what is music (and what does it do)’?. In no particular order, this is what it is to me, and others slightly more famous and influential (!):


It is timeless, old, new, current.


A universal language. One that moves across barriers and boundaries, across borders and languages. And something that can be shared by all cultures and all people.


“Music is the great uniter. An incredible force. Something that people who differ on everything and anything else can have in common.” - Sarah Dessen “Music is the universal language of mankind.” - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow “Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.” - Confucius “I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music.” - Billy Joel


A vehicle for expression. We are emotional beings but sometimes communication is hard. Music expresses what words can’t, filling in the gaps between the missing words and showing what we feel inside. It also helps to fully contextualise words by helping to give them expression and emotion.


“Music touches us emotionally, where words alone can’t.” - Johnny Depp “Where words fail, music speaks.” - Hans Christian Andersen “Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.” - Victor Hugo Music . . . can name the unnameable and communicate the unknowable.” - Leonard Bernstein


Establishes self identity. You can be who you want to be, not what you think you need to be - this is especially important when considering the demands placed on us as individuals to ‘fit in’. It gives us the self-confidence to take risks and explore our own selves and our own opinions.


“Joy, sorrow, tears, lamentation, laughter – to all these music gives voice, but in such a way that we are transported from the world of unrest to a world of peace, and see reality in a new way, as if we were sitting by a mountain lake and contemplating hills and woods and clouds in the tranquil and fathomless water.” - Albert Schweitzer “Music is the language of the spirit. It opens the secret of life bringing peace, abolishing strife.” - Kahlil Gibran


Establishes group unity. It brings people together as part of a team, to share something special together. It develops friendships and social skills such as turn taking, incorporating others ideas, being adaptable.


“The power of music to integrate and cure … is quite fundamental. It is the profoundest non-chemical medication." - Oliver Sacks


It suggests and evokes. But there is no right or wrong answer. Despite a collective understanding and universal feeling, it is also unique to every individual. It offers a freedom to try, to be creative, to push the boundaries and expand thoughts via stories infused with truth, experience and also the depths of our imaginations; we can revisit the past, plan the future, the list goes on.


Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” - Plato “No matter who we are, no matter what our circumstances, our feelings and emotions are universal. And music has always been a great way to make people aware of that connection. It can help you open up a part of yourself and express feelings you didn’t know you were feeling.” - Josh Groban “Words make you think. Music makes you feel. A song makes you feel a thought.” - E.Y. Harburg “Music is the moonlight in the gloomy night of life.” - Jean Paul Friedrich Richter


Alters our mood. And gives us permission to feel a certain way - and there is so much music of different emotions which we listen to to help us experience those feelings.


“Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” - Berthold Auerbach “Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.” - Maya Angelou “My heart, which is so full to overflowing, has often been solaced and refreshed by music when sick and weary.” - Martin Luther



The extent of the above list wasn’t just to make my blog seem longer (!), but really to show how music affects each and every one of us, day in and day out. How it plays such an important role in so many peoples’ lives; as a friend, a balancer, a carer, a calmer. And all that for so many without ‘official’ mental health issues. So then, only a small leap needs to be taken to realise just how important music is for those suffering from a low mental wellbeing; helping to work on all those aspect required to be considered part of ‘wellbeing’ (see definition at the top).


"One good thing about music is that when it hits you, you feel no pain.” - Bob Marley


Over the course of the Wavelength project, I have seen interactions develop between participants, resulting in increased confidence and sense of self worth, leading to a more secure sense of self. In addition, a security in the safety of being amongst likeminded people who are always supportive and encouraging.


“He took his pain and turned it into something beautiful. Into something that people connect to. And that’s what good music does. It speaks to you. It changes you.” - Hannah Harrington


Maybe the question here needs not be specific to just the wellbeing sector, but more to life in general. And then, maybe as a result, the wellbeing sector has an automatic aid and friend.


“Music can change the world because it can change people.” - Bono