Music, Movement, And The Creative Imagination

We’ve probably all heard of music and movement from schooldays. I can just about remember being in the assembly hall at junior school, hearing strange music and walking around in curves and circling my arms with the other kids wondering what on earth it was all about. Wearing those little black plimsoles, we crouched down low, then jumped up high, reaching for the sky – higher, cried the teacher – I can’t reach any higher!, I’m thinking, then squeaking and thumping our feet as we scampered over the polished floor, while the teacher’s voice rang out her instructions, full of expression and weird intonations to keep us all moving. There were no such ‘indulgences’ when we got to secondary school. So looking into it just now, it was of course, as the teachers know, all about the theory that music and movement aids development in children in so many ways – motor skills, proprioception, coordination and brain development for language and reading skills, and even stimulating memory…through to confidence building, emotional expression and a route to stimulating play, where all this can be encapsulated by the proven theory that music and movement help the mind and body to work together.

And years later, as grown-ups, we combine music with movement in a variety of forms. We walk, we jog, we run, we exercise at the gym, all while listening to music. We jump around in aerobic work-outs to music , we dance to music, we drive our car to music along highways and byways. And most of us find that the music urges us to put effort in, as those endorphins get released in response to the way music works on the brain and when we exercise. High energy music makes us want to run faster or to drive faster (not always a good thing ;>)), it gives us a buzz, we want to fly. Low energy music slows us down, but stimulates a pensive soulfulness, a poignant reflectivity where we may feel we are just touching the surface of what may be hidden deeper inside us. The combination does so much, but can it help with the creative imagination?

It’s a big YES, for me, and judging from blog posts I’ve read, it’s common for many of us creative people and thinking folks. This means we can deliberately harness the ‘music and movement’ jamming together power when we need a few ideas or creative solutions to our work in progress, which is undoubtedly at the back or our minds when we set off on our jaunt. We can be (yes, I’ll say, it ;>)) inspired. Now I realise that music alone, or movement alone, can work magic in themselves, but for me, its the two working together that seem to give me what I need. I get immense pleasure from that feeling of being on the move, a feeling of flowing, with a mood from the music to accompany me along the way. I am having such a fundamentally enjoyable time, I’m frequently loath to want to stop the journey. Even if I’m feeling sad, I still want to carry on moving and listening. Somehow I’m transported somewhere else and I want to be in that place.

But what is this place? How does music and movement get me there? And how does it help the creative imagination? Well, I’ve been having a think and thought I would have a go at describing it from my own perspective to see if it fits with other’s experiences – so do let me know. The other day, I was walking and jogging in the fields listening to my MP3 player. My mind was focused on my feet, where I was stepping on the uneven ground, so it was honing in on the physical coordination of the walking and jogging. But I’m also hearing the rhythms and melodies of some of my favourite songs, and I often match the beat with my feet. With this combination at the forefront of my mind to concentrate upon and enjoy, thoughts and ideas pop into my mind, unbidden. That’s common enough, I expect. But the content of these thoughts and ideas is usually a channelled development of what I was preoccupied with when I left the house, and that is usually  my creative work –  especially writing, as I find it a pretty intense process. So it is not something I consciously do, it is something that seems to come up behind and then alongside me to flow through me, a little like is illustrated here –

– so I’m thinking, it must be the subconscious mind working, while the conscious mind is busy and kept entertained by the music and movement. It’s like the music and movement and the concentration upon them act as an invitation for the subconscious to come on in please. So for example, I’ve solved quite a few plotting problems while on my walks or jogs. I’ve had visual ideas linked to my writing. With respect to painting, I’ve come up with processes to try that might enhance my current painting or future ones. I paint while I listen to music, while I’m handling and moving the brush, and I know that has often influenced the final result with my more spontaneous-style paintings, like this one, entitled  ‘All that Jazz’, painted while I was listening to jazz music.

And I know I wouldn’t have come up with these ‘solutions’ by being stationary and staring into space, thinking hard. Now, that’s as far as I’m going to analyse this as it’s really a gift from nature which should not be prodded and poked too much otherwise it might withdraw its magic power. But what a wonderful thing it is truly is…

And speaking outside of the creative life, the music and movement jamming power can trigger memories, whole chains of them, it can come up with outside the box, lateral thinking, to solve problems in other areas of your life. You can be filled with resolve to tackle that problem when you get home, no more putting it off, you can garner some kind of energy to deal with it. And sometimes you can simply do a bit of self-healing for your soul, you can feed your spirit with music and movement, you can use it for self-care. There is something so archetypal and human about it for us all.

Here are some other thoughts from some websites I visited:

On the relaxation  response to music:

‘Simply listening to music can help relax us, and relaxation is key to creativity. Jonah Lehrer, a neuroscientist and author of the bestselling book Imagine, says that moments of insight, or creative moments, usually correspond to a steady rhythm of alpha waves emanating from the brain’s right hemisphere. And that is stimulated by relaxation. Why is a relaxed state of mind so important for creative insights?” he writes. “When our minds are at ease — when those alpha waves are rippling through the brain — we’re more likely to direct the spotlight of attention inward … In contrast, when we are diligently focused, our attention tends to be directed outward.’

‘Music can alter the state of our brainwaves, as well as trigger neurotransmitters, like dopamine, that alter our mood and reward us for creative breakthroughs.’

‘Music can also help stimulate our imagination, one of the key components of the creative process. Listening to a song we love or fully immersing ourselves in a piece of beautiful music can shift our mood, create images in our mind, impact our limbic brain and open us up to new ideas.’

Whether your creative spark gets ignited by a beautiful sunset…or your 5-year-old daughter’s smile, there is little doubt in my mind that one of our most inspiring creative muses is music.’

And in relation to movement:

‘Walking on a regular basis promotes new connections between brain cells, staves off the usual withering of brain tissue that comes with age, increases the volume of the hippocampus (a brain region crucial for memory), and elevates levels of molecules that both stimulate the growth of new neurons and transmit messages between them.’

So there!

‘But what’s most important is the body of research that shows trying to crack that creative nut is probably going to happen quicker even if you’re simply pacing in a room, rather than slumping in your chair and browsing websites or messing with whatever new app you just downloaded. “The way we move our bodies further changes the nature of our thoughts, and vice versa.’

And on a lighter note:

‘It’s no wonder Rodin’s ‘The Thinker’ has been there so long — he’d probably figure out the answer if he just stood up and stretched his legs’.

Creativity is a Flow, Not a Goal

‘Creativity is not a goal you complete as part of your work, it’s a way of being. Giant creative bolts are great, but rare, which is why it’s so important to connect with the creative flow that’s already running through you.’

‘Physical movement is just one small way to reconnect with yourself throughout the day in little bursts, so that you can crank the fires of creative inspiration and set a practice in motion. Simple practice is what keeps your creative budget topped off and full. So have fun finding ways to fuel it up and let it out!’

So putting music and movement together has to be a winner because you are going with the flow more intensely and all the way…

Happy Easter to you all and I hope you are out and about enjoying some lovely weather whilst feeding your creative life!

(top 2 pics, from pixabay, no 3 from Lynne, no 4 pixabay)






About lynnefisher

Writer and visual artist living in Scotland, INFJ type Writer's blog: Art: Twitter @writeartblog Writers page Facebook Artists page Facebook
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12 Responses to Music, Movement, And The Creative Imagination

  1. Libby Sommer says:

    all i know is that moving to music puts a smile on my face and lifts me up from too much navel gazing. i spent Easter at a music and dance festival in Canberra. five wonderful days and nights. i love the colours and patterns in your painting. i see icecreams on cones 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. theusedlife says:

    This is a great post. I, too, rely very heavily on both music and physical activity to keep me creative and mentally “fresh.” Thank you for posting on this topic. Beautiful artwork! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. galenpearl says:

    A famous tai chi teacher always played music during his classes. And at least on TV, surgeons often have music playing in the operating room (I found that fascinating)! When I was in law school, I played a certain piece of music every semester the night before exams started (the second movement of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony). Music engages so many parts of our bodies and psyches, not just our ears. I love the connections you made here.

    Liked by 3 people

    • lynnefisher says:

      Some lovely points, Galen! Music and craft of whatever kind, whether in the operating room or while simply painting or sewing can access a deeper relaxation and refined focus at the same time. The effect lingers long after the hearing and can be so uplifting to the body, spirit, and mind. I’ve been listening to some cello orchestral music in the car recently, something a little different for me, and it makes me tune into the different sounds of musical instruments and how they work together so beautifully. Life would be dull indeed without music!


    • Rick Ellrod says:

      Yeah! The second movement is very thoughtful — and thought-provoking. Or, if you want to be inspired to get moving, go back to the first movement . . . I’ve heard it called ‘the apotheosis of the dance.’ 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree – music and movement are an integral part of our lives, from childhood (for all the reasons you mention and more) through to the end – as studies of folks with dementia are proving. I often painted to music in the days when the paintbrush was often in my hands and once conducted an experiment to see what happened with different musical genres that was quite intriguing to me. I love your posts, they are so insightful and thoughtful. Also your painting – talented lady!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • lynnefisher says:

      Thank you, Pauline. Yes, the lady I see with dementia can still play her piano well and music really sustains her and triggers her memories. I’m so pleased they are integrating this into dementia care these days. Interesting painting experiments, different genres set off so many varied moods, its magical. And cheers for the compliment. Someone once told me the shape reminded them of an elephant, so that’s all I see now – an elephant dancing to jazz!

      Liked by 3 people

  5. inkbiotic says:

    Happy Easter! Thoughtful words as always. And I love All that Jazz! Beautiful colours.

    Liked by 1 person

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