We’ve all experienced times in our lives when we’ve felt down or in need of upliftment. As I write this I, myself am listening to a collection of the most relaxing classical music. I find it helps me concentrate when I’m doing research, while when I’m doing other work an audiobook or a combination of various genres help me concentrate. A lot of people think this is a distraction but oddly enough for me it helps me channel my focus. Now I’m not saying this works for everyone, because obviously it won’t, but it does raise the question: How does music affect us? How is it that some people can work to hard rock, while others can only use classical music, sometimes even no music at all? Why is this?
According to research done in 2013, music was seen as a leisure activity as well as a ubiquitous companion in our everyday lives. It seems to have no practical purpose, yet it consumes so much of our time and energy. This is, however, not something that is new to the world, ever since ancient times music has been enjoyed by many various cultures and peoples. This in turn has spurred on a lot of curiosity and investigation into its origins and function.
All throughout history many philosophers, psychologists, anthropologists, scientists, musicologists and neuroscientists have offered various theories about the origin and purpose of music. Scientific investigations have been conducted to pursue further research into this. However, none could discover the origin of music as it is so shrouded in mystery. There does not appear to be any written or physical evidence of the origins of music. Thus there will always be a lot of speculation surrounding its beginnings. There does seem to be some promising clues in the function of music. It is believed that perhaps by looking at music’s application today we can piece together how it was used in ancient times, but again, there is more research required before we can determine any definitive answers.
What is the impact of music’s influence, at biological and psychological level, on the human brain? Since the middle of the 20th century, a good deal of research has been invested in this particular area of study.
According to an article, published by the Guardian, there are various ways music can affect a human’s neurochemistry. For example, classical music has a tendency to make people shop more, as it puts them in a more relaxed state of mind and gentle tunes can help in the treatment of insomnia. I can attest to this, as when I was a little girl my father made me listen to Beta-Kit (https://naturegraphics.eu/betakit-global-study-system-64/) at night to help me sleep and it worked like a charm. Research has also concluded that group singing, such as choirs, church events or even live concerts where the attendees sing along, help humans bond by releasing a bonding hormone called Oxytocin. It’s been observed that listening to music which increases adrenaline levels can help you stay awake on long drives, however this can also make you drive more aggressively. On the other side of the spectrum listening to music that relaxes you can actually decrease the amount of ‘vigilance chemical’ known as Noradrenaline. A half hour of classical music can actually help you re-establish your sleep patterns. An example of this is Marconi Union’s song Weightless that has been scientifically formulated to put you into a state of relaxation and slumber. It is so effective that it is advised that you don’t play it while driving. The band put a fair amount of research into how to affect the neurochemistry of people’s minds, in order to write a piece of music that would induce this state.
Despite everything we’ve just read, the biological role of music and its psychological effects in relation to mental disorders, is still very poorly understood. Perhaps clinical neuroscience can give us new insight into this phenomenon?
These new insights could help us look deeper into the effects music has on mental disorders by investigating the cognitive and neural architecture of music and even looking at a subject’s personal accounts of the role of music in their biological processes. There is a definite correlation between music and its positive effect on mental disorders. This is something which has been derived from various sources of evidence, discovered in the fields of comparative theology, cognitive neuropsychology and neuroimaging studies in both the normal and disordered mind.
Along with all the various ways it can affect your brain chemistry, music has the ability to improve your intelligence according to leading scientists. Listening to ambient music, at a moderate volume, can stimulate creativity and help repair brain damage. Music, when learnt at an early age, can aid a child in their vocabulary and help to improve their nonverbal reasoning. It’s even been said that the nerve makeup of musicians is different from that of non-musicians, suggesting that musician’s minds have more bundles of nerves that bridge the left side of the brain to the right. Producing music, requires making use of more than one area of the brain.
There are numerous ways music affects our biology. It has positive medicinal effects, such as treating anxiety, inhibiting fatigue, changing your pulse and respiration levels even affecting your blood pressure levels. When treating epilepsy and coma patients, Mozart’s “Piano Sonata in D Major” has shown to have a positive outcome.
Another form of music, commonly known, is “mood music”. When it comes to this specific genre of music, as well as increasing serotonin levels, it’s also been proven in a study conducted on 44 women, that women who listen to romantic music are more likely to hand out their phone numbers than women who listen to other genres of music.
Anyone who exercises or plays sports will know, listening to music makes the whole experience that much more pleasant. Music can also boost your endurance and help with your exercise routine. It has been found that cyclists who listen to music while cycling, use 7% less oxygen than others who don’t. A song’s bpm (specifically one at 145bpm) can affect your motivation. Spotify’s Running playlist has taken advantage of this knowledge.
Songs that have been known to boost endurance are:
- Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run”
- Spoon’s “Don’t Make Me a Target”
- Beach Boys’ “Do You Wanna Dance?”
Music can also boost your mood, such as the song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. Singing in the shower has also proven to show marked improvement in patients suffering from diseases such as Aphasia and Parkinson’s.
Whatever the science or psychology behind it, we can all agree that music has -and always will- play a vital role in our society, even children, as young as they are, can pick up emotions, and reliably identify what is expressed in music. This all due to the emotion, reward and memory it brings.
Music will always be a part of our lives. Some referred to it as the sound of the soul, which I think is a perfect description. When there are no words or ways to express how you feel, a single song can make all the difference in the world. A cheery song to someone who is feeling down, a song of love and compassion to a person who is feeling unloved and lonely, or a song filled with pain and sorrow sung together with another human being, can change their entire outlook on their situation. We don’t have to use words to lift their spirits. To just be with them and share a song, that has helped you get through the same or similar situation, can make all the difference.
I have found that when I sing praises to my Jesus, I no longer hear the thunderstorm raging all around me. It reminds me that the God I serve, is louder, more powerful and greater than any thunderstorm I could ever go through!
So my dear avidReaders, if you ever feel down or just want to celebrate life, listen to a good song. It will make all the difference in the world!
God bless you all, my darling avidReaders!