The Joy of Music and Creative Play

Updated: Feb 14


One of the things I love about making music (and one of the reasons why I never really wanted to write about it) is the fact that it is a process that overrides verbal language and intellectual thought. Although music has its own language of notes and chords and scales, creating music can be a way to “turn off the mind” for a while and become immersed in another form of expression, communication, and perception that can simultaneously refresh us from mental overload and fatigue.

Playing music is an extremely visceral experience that taps into feelings and impressions that can’t be otherwise expressed or put into words and, like other creative endeavors such as dancing or painting, can be a way for us to lose ourselves in the joy of play and forget about the world for a while. It allows us to tap into child-like aspects of ourselves that delight in discovery and imagination for its own sake, and regain the spontaneity and sense of wonder that we had before we became indoctrinated with culture and personality. At the same time, something else is at play when we are involved in the creation of music.

When I am playing, jamming, or composing music, I totally lose track of time. I get lost in the sounds and in the joyful play of creation. It becomes possible to turn off that little voice in the head that is always babbling away in the background (Buddhists call it the monkey mind) and gain access to a form of awareness that many refer to as “peak performance”, “being in the zone”, or getting into a state of "flow". It is like a form of active meditation. Creative play in the form of music-making can be a trigger to spontaneously access higher states of consciousness. This may be due to the fact that the process itself stimulates parts of the brain in the right hemisphere that induce alpha brainwaves, which are associated with states of deep relaxation and meditation. In fact, it has been scientifically observed that “…brain areas deactivated during [musical] improvisation are the same as those at rest during dreaming and meditation (other rich states for imagination and creativity), while activated areas include those controlling language and sensorimotor skills.” [1]

Being creative can also be a messy and chaotic process, while the brain is trying to create order out of the sounds, forms, and shapes being made so it can put them together into organized and meaningful patterns. This can be where the frustration sets in for a lot of people, because it often takes time and multiple attempts to organize all the different elements being worked with and put them together in a way that makes sense. It is like piecing together a puzzle, as the two sides of the brain duke it out until something happens, they communicate in synchrony, the creation comes together and finally there is an “a-ha!” or “Eureka!” moment of epiphany. What usually follows is a tremendous sense of fulfillment when it all comes together and finally becomes a fully realized idea, work, or project.

Yet even if this doesn’t happen, it can still feel deeply satisfying and rewarding to simply engage in spontaneous creative play for a while: to improvise a tune, strum a guitar, plunk on a piano, bang on a drum, make some noise and just have fun.

The daily grind of life in the 21st century can be extremely stressful. People are desperate for relief and relaxation and need ways to recharge and renew. Engaging in creative play, particularly in the creation of music, can be a powerful and intensely joyful way to do just that.

References Cited:

1. Fitzpatrick, F. (2012, October 20). WHY MUSIC – Part 6: Music and Creativity. Retrieved from: http://earthtones.org/2012/10/music-and-creativity/

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