Music is one of the most ancient art of human beings. In 2009, archaeologist Nick Conard has excavated three bone flutes at the Geissenkloesterle Cave, which are the oldest known instrument that people invented, and they could be dated back to 43,000 years years ago. So there’s reason to believe that our ancestors might use their bodies as instruments and their voices as resources to play music even before the appearance of bone flutes. Those prehistoric singers might sing freely in the vast prairie or in the dense rainforest to express their sorrow and happiness. They might not even know what rhythm, harmony or timbre is, but instead they regard singing as something deeply connected to their soul and they could use it to reflect his/her thoughts and feelings naturally. According to Maslow, an American psychologist, food, water and air are basic necessities of our daily lives,and it makes the base of the hierarchy of needs model. But singing, whose value is oftenly underrated as a non-essential activity in human life, plays an irreplaceable role in satisfying our love and belonging needs, self-actualization needs and sometimes it’s a tool for us to achieve over actualization. In other words, besides material needs, social and spiritual needs are higher-level demands and it’s also essential to humans. In this case singing is such a proper tool to satisfy our social and spiritual demands. In this singing and humanity blog, I would like to primarily focus on how singing is beneficial to our emotional needs and connects us with others in the society. 

   Singing, as a psychosocial and mental activity, could bring us happiness and heal those emotional wounds. A Budda once said, “A sound comes to your ears and everything in your mind goes away”. This is an astute observation about singing and music, which could rinse the bad emotions like irritation, anger and sadness out of our hearts and express the joviality when we are happy. The touching and thought-provoking singing of  Katie Hickey, a professional singer and musician, during her weekly session at La Vida Real Memory Care Facility just reflected this point. During her performance, I noticed that when the audience heard the song that they are familiar with or have strong empathy with, they would spontaneously sway their bodies and tap their feet. The lady sitting in the middle of the couch even clapped excitedly when she hit the high note. The big smile on their face directly showed how they enjoy the process of singing. What also impressed me most is that the man in the left corner continuously dabbed his eyes covertly while listening and thinking quietly. I guess those classic songs in fifty years might cause him to reminisce about the good old days and his lost youth. But the music is an appeasement to shattered hearts, so he finally calmed down and began to interact with Katie. Also, I found that the couple were looking at each other tenderly and holding each other’s hand tightly during the song. Imagining myself in that emotional space, I felt happy and warmful for them who could support each other and share the happiness of singing in the final curtain.

   The guest speech given by Katie also illustrates how singing is essential to heal our emotions. Katie mentioned that singing is a way to evoke sweet memories buried in the deepest recesses of our heart and thus it is useful to help people with declining mental states. Sometimes singing could even get people out of the depressed period, renewing hope and enthusiasm for their lives. On top of that, Katie asserted singing could not only deliver a psychological boost to our souls but also achieve a positive physical effect on our bodies. For instance, she would normally hold a mini concert with elderly residents and interact with them to help them discipline the memory, preventing possible dementia. To get everyone involved in the singing, the songs chosen must be easily-recognizable and straightforward to sing. And one thing is quite interesting is that she needs to have enough physical activities like swaying her body or clapping her hands to help the elderly focus on the music and interact with her. I think it’s quite challenging for a singer to sing loudly while moving his/her body because in this case he/her might not be able to control the breathe needed for singing.

Singing, as a social activity, opens channels for communication and builds bonds between people. Midway through this quarter, we enjoyed a rehearsal provided by a very special group “Voices of Our City Choir” , which was founded to help the homeless people in San Diego. They help the people in need to get food, housing and especially the necessary social connection with the local community through singing. In the talk with the founder Steph Johnson, she argued that when people are suffering great trauma and trapped in a desperate situation, they usually don’t have the confidence to ask for help. Some people become “unsheltered” just because of an unpredicted natural disaster. It’s not their fault. So at this point, there should be a association which could give them a hand and pull them out of the mire of their lives. Voices of Our City Choir just provides a platform for people to connect and guides them to the resources they need. In this choir, people support each other to find the way they could leave the street and get housing. It is admirable that Voices of Our City Choir has helped more than 80 people move out of the street. And many of them would come back to the choir as volunteers, continuing to help others still in need. More importantly, the choir is a place for “unsheltered people” to receive emotional support through music. When someone is at the bottom of his/her life, he/she doesn’t have the opportunity to access any entertainment to get relaxed. In this case, singing is the only accessible way to enjoy the beauty of life and get fulfillment. When I was watching the performance of Voices of Our City Choir on Oct 25th, I found everyone was so indulged in the performance. And the smile on their faces showed how much they enjoyed themselves and were excited when they were singing together. It would also give them the courage to conquer the challenge in their future lives. 

Throughout this quarter, I explored music with a group of people who are passionate about it and their enthusiasm influenced me to develop my singing skills persistently. We have also read a wide range of readings about singing and its social meaning. Sometimes we might have different points of views about the content and debate is inevitable between me and the classmates. Just like singers in a choir  might have diverse tones and they need to listen to each other carefully while singing to reach a higher level of harmony. This course teaches me that respecting different voices and learning to listen to others are not only essential to singers but also necessary for everyone.