It is possible to think of the necessity of art (especially music) for children in social terms. Musicality (broadly defined) is the basis, ontogenetically and phylogenetically, of love and friendship, originating in infant-mother communications. That is the thesis of Communicative Musicality (Oxford 2009), which is buttressed by an extensive and growing body of high quality, peer-reviewed studies in multiple disciplines.
The child is bombarded by stimuli from all seven senses (vestibular and proprioceptive, in addition to the traditional five), by the difficulty of selecting items for awareness or focused attention, and the difficulty of avoiding interference effects (e.g., vision interfering with hearing). Consider the problems of attention deficits and sensory integration.
What happens during musicking? The chaotic overflow becomes knowable as an awareness of surroundings, unthreatening, perhaps loving. The competing and disordered stimuli are more and more matched by an array of attentional systems, as well as executive function, working memory, etc., to focus attention. Details become more vivid, ordered, beautiful to the child’s developing self.
The consequence is that the child becomes conscious in a new way; self comes to mind; the elements of consciousness, awareness, attention and self-reference become refined and cooperative. All of these blossom during musicking.
Think of the centrality of attention to everything human! We cannot love unless we can attend to the other, nor be friends or have loyalties, commitments, vital interests. Without attention, we’re hardly human; and without music and art, we may never learn to pay attention properly.
Hence the centrality of music and art to life. They are indispensable!
Harry has been delivering therapeutic music in a variety of contexts for over thirty years. Through college and graduate school in music (BA, MA, Phil, Ph.D. from Yale), he continued to view music as having unique powers to heal and has put that in the service of people in need. His academic career went from music to law. As a lawyer and law professor, he has devoted thousands of hours to pro bono activities on behalf of numerous charities. Most important among his charitable commitments has been therapeutic music. He became a Director of the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function (IMNF, founded by Dr. Oliver Sacks) in 2013 and has devoted approximately 1000 hours a year to delivering therapy to patients there (420 inpatients and 5000 outpatients). He became Director of the PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury Program at IMNF and is active in the arts in early childhood education through Mind-Builders, a successful arts school in a poor neighborhood of the Bronx. In 2015, he was made a Salzburg Global Fellow in Neuroscience and the Arts, and later a Fellow in Early Childhood Development and Education. At IMNF, he continues to direct the PTSD program for veterans and is involved in programs for at-risk children and the elderly. He has been extensively involved with PTSD advocacy on Capitol Hill, as well as continuing expansion of the trauma-related program at IMNF, including trauma in children. He has great appreciation for the ability of music to heal and optimism about our ability, collectively, to create the informal partnerships and public-private institutional alliances to make the dream of therapeutic music a reality for millions of people, young and old, who would benefit from its healing power.