April in Glenwood: Music makes it better | PostIndependent.com

April in Glenwood: Music makes it better

This morning, “Turn This Mutha Out” by MC Hammer came on the radio. All I could do was smile and think about my purple-and-black polka dot Hammer pants from high school.

In 1988, MC Hammer’s music was revolutionary in bringing a new style of pop rap to a mainstream audience. He wasn’t hardcore like the N.W.A.-style gangster rap that was all the rage, and I’m sure many mothers against vulgar lyrics were happy about that. Some critics called him a sell-out. He certainly made it big with “U Can’t Touch This.” All I knew is that I couldn’t get over the moves on that guy, and his cool baggy pants, so I was an instant fan.

I loved all the original rappers, and MC Hammer, along with Tone Loc and the Fat Boys, were just as much a part of my rap tape collection as the more obscure artists such as Ice-T and BDP, who didn’t receive as much air play.

Whether it’s pop rap, disco or Big Band, music always been part of my life. My Aunt Patty played Fleetwood Mac records for me while I danced in my crib as a toddler. As far back as I can remember, music has been my therapy. I remember learning how to truly let loose and dance to rock ’n’ roll when I was 5, when my babysitter would play Doors albums for me and my brother at night. As a school girl, I memorized the “Grease” soundtrack, from the heart-wrenching “Hopelessly Devoted to You” to the rollicking “Born to Hand Jive,” feeling the spectrum of emotions young love can bring through song.

I was a Pink Lady in another life.

Music has picked me up when I’m down — especially Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation” — and helped me cry it out during the sad times. My Dido “No Angel” CD saw tons of play during those rocky early-2000 years. Now that I’m a mom, I find music is exactly what I need, as well as the baby, when we are trying to relax or feel rejuvenated. Music is especially helpful when soothing a baby.

I probably should take stock in Internet radio, particularly Pandora.

I remember reading about Deanna Hanson-Abromeit, assistant professor of music education and music therapy at the University of Kansas, and her music therapy study in preemies. Her work showed how music therapy helps premature infants not only survive, but thrive, as they receive early care.

Just this week, I read more interesting facts on the effects of music in a CNN report highlighting a study by psychologist David Greenberg. He found that “those who have a well-developed ability to understand thoughts and feelings in themselves and others — empathizers — tend to prefer mellow music that evokes deep emotion.”

In terms of Greenberg’s study, I’m more of an empathizer than a systemizer, a term he says specifically relates to an appreciation of underlying patterns, systems and structure. His research concluded that systemizers lean more toward intense music that forms complex sounds and empathizers are interested in music’s emotional qualities.

I do think I can be a little of both.

When I hear my favorite songs, say “Turn This Mutha Out” or “Bad Reputation,” the empathizer in me immediately comes out, and I go to the place when they were most popular. I think about the emotions I was having at that time in my life, and I mostly smile because life was simple in my youth. Both songs remind me of my adolescence and being carefree, a luxury adulthood doesn’t always afford when the bills are due and parenting responsibilities call. The systemizer in me eventually follows to appreciate the complex guitar riffs or freestyle rap beats that are best left to the professionals to create, as I’m not the most musically inclined. I’m better at listening to music anyway, and will always make my best attempt to dance to it when I can. It’s all therapy, when it comes down to it.

Maybe I should break out the Hammer pants again.

April E. Clark will not be playing that “I’m pregnant!” April Fools’ Day joke today because it’s really not that funny. She can be reached at aprilelizabethclark@gmail.com.


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