Music is without doubt the oldest art that man has ever practiced. Through music people are able to express their emotions and ideas using the elements of rhythm, melody, harmony and color. Music thus has the power to influence our minds as it involves a complex psychological process that involve our ears, body and brain. Research has also shown that music can to a great extent influence our emotional state. However, in the recent years scientist have raised concerns on the influence that modern music has on the human brain. What is the emotional connection that humans have to music? How does this connection influence the world around us?
For many decades, music has united people from different cultural backgrounds to form one society. Music can thus be described as the common language that people from all over the world can understand (Wadsworth, 112). The emotional connection that people have with music can be proven by the fact that some therapist have successfully used music to help their patients feel better. Music sooths the brains, enabling a person to relax and for a moment wonder to the world they have always desired. For instance, many people would listen to jazz music when they feel stressed as it enables them to forget all their pain and agony and enjoy the moment. Parents also sing to the children to make them stop crying or when they are scared to relax them and assure them that they are safe. This helps the parents to bond with their children at an emotional level and the child will develop a sense of security and love from them. Music also creates the emotional attachment that children have with their parents even after they have grown to be adults.
In any romantic gathering whether it is a wedding or a date, you will always find music playing in the background. Music not only entertains the people but it also helps them express their feelings to their loved ones. People also consider singing or playing a musical instrument for instance a violin, guitar or piano to be very romantic. It helps the partners to connect emotionally at a different level than if when they just use words to communicate. Singing to the people you love passes a stronger message than if you just told them. Also music shows how sincere you are in expressing your feelings whether it is love, frustrations or excitement since it involves your body, mind and soul.
One of the most important use of music is memory development. Children who take music from an early stage in education have been found to have developed a better memory than most who did not get exposed to music. Musicians too have good memories which enables them to play their instruments and remember the lines in their songs well. Learning music trains the brain to have a high working memory. It also involves fast thinking and proper concentration which makes people to develop better listening abilities. When learning music, one has to observe and listen keenly then apply this skills practically. Musicians also have to be creative in order to come up with music that will entertain their audience as well as deliver their message. Also in order for one to play the instruments, you must have a good memory to remember the notes and to play them correctly.
Music training also improves a person’s verbal memory as well as attention. You are trained to be able distinguish what each person is saying irrespective of the amount of noise in the room. This also means that one has to learn to concentrate on what is important and ignore all other distractions. This is a very useful skill to students and also to people who work in noisy places that are full of distractions as they will be able to concentrate on their work well. A research done by Chinese psychologists from the University of Hong Kong proved that music training improved people’s verbal memory to a great extent. The research involved two groups of children; one group received music training while the other one did not. After the training, children from the two groups were given verbal memory test and asked to remember the words they had learnt. Those who had received verbal music training remembered more words than those who had not.
Health experts have also found out that listening to music helps in the treatment of dementia in many patients. John who is 85 years and developed dementia when he reached 60 has been staying in a nursing home for 15 years. When he was admitted to the nursing home, he used to sit alone and stay quiet for many hours. The nurses then gave him an iPod so that he could listen to his favorite country music. After sometimes, John started having short conversations with the nurses and other patients and he could recall some things from the past. This is just one of the many examples of people dementia who have been able to regain their normal life thanks to music. When a person is listening to music, the hippocampus which is the memory part of the brain gets stimulated and new memory is created. Music memory is not affected in most cases when the retrograde and anterograde amnesia are affected.
Every person has a unique mind and finds certain ways of learning more effective than others. People learn in seven different types of intelligences that are easier for them to understand (Laminack, 106). Musical intelligence is one of the most common type of these intelligences and it involves people learning by converting whatever they are trying to learn into a song or a poem. Children in preschool for example do most of the learning through simple songs. Whether it is learning syllables or parts of the body or even prayers. Also people who wish to learn different languages find it easier by listening to music. Music not only helps them to grasp the words of the new language but it also helps a person to pronounce the words correctly, learn typical phrases from the new culture and expand their vocabulary. This is the reason why musicians can easily sing songs from different languages because they are able to convert the sound patterns into words.
The human brain can be trained to adopt and change through exercises at a young age. One such exercise is learning how to play musical instruments which has been proved to improve a person’s reading skills. Instruments are usually complicated to play and require a person to be able to memorize and follow certain rules. This trains the brain to be able to choose what is significant in a complicated process such as reading and communicating. Two researchers, Piro and Ortiz took two groups of children with equal academic abilities. One of these group leaned how to play an instrument while the other one did not receive any music training. At the end of the year, the vocabulary and verbal sequencing scores of the group that learned how to play an instrument was higher than that of the group that did not receive music training.
Music can also be used enable children math faster and easily. Researchers at the San Francisco University were able to come up with a new curriculum “Academic Music” where students at the third grade used to learn the topic on fractions through music. One group of students was to follow this new curriculum while another group continued with the regular curriculum. In this new curriculum, students learned fractions by associating them with the value of music notes. They were taught how to add and subtract fractions in such a way that the results gave four beats in each bar. By end of the research, students who learned math through music were able to improve by over 50% in fraction tests.
Teenagers use music to identify and express certain emotions. At their age, teenagers usually experience many changes in their lives such as loss of a loved one, family problems and academic stress. Also teenagers start to discover their sexuality and long for acceptance. Through lyrics, they can be able to identify and express their feelings whether it is sadness or happiness and the psychological or sociological problems they face. Music is very helpful especially to adolescents who struggle with issues of their sexual orientation, loneliness, sadness or even depression. It gives them comfort and a means to channel their feelings. By listening to music with the same theme as your emotions, for instance if you are feeling lonely, sad or depressed and there is no one around you who you can comfortably discuss your issues with, music gives you comfort as you can feel connected to the artist who seems to understand your situation through their music. Music is thus a great mood changer that can greatly strengthen a person’s positive moods.
Repressing certain emotions has many grave dangers to a person’s health. This is also one of the major causes of depression and withdrawal. Usually when people feel that they are not worthy or nobody around them understands their feelings, they keep this feelings to themselves and sometimes they are hurting silently from within. Music is a way of self-expression as it gives a person a channel to express their feelings. When people write their own lyrics, play an instrument or listen to music, they are able to express their feelings more openly than they could through non-music conversations. By releasing such emotions, people are able to reduce their chances of getting panic attacks (Raglio et al, 112).
Through music therapy, family members are able to get connected emotionally and relax in a more positive and interesting way. This is especially important to parents who spend a lot of time of work and have less time for their children and spouses. Going to a music concert together will help build the emotional intimacy between them and relight their relationship. Also when people listen to music that sooths their mind, the body releases hormones such as melatonin, norepinephrine, serotonin and prolactin which are important in mood regulation and reduction of depression. This helps people to sleep more peacefully and also to socialize well others. Music tempo has also been found to be healthy for the heart health. When listening to slow music, our hearts beat at a slow but healthy rate that helps lower our anxiety and stress levels. Upbeat music increases the heart rate, blood pressure and anxiety levels. Slow music lowers the production of cortisol which is the stress hormone thus increasing our ability to think, remember and concentrate.
Music has a very definite psychological and physiological effect on people. Consonant harmony has different effects on the person listening to it depending on its rhythm and tempo. It make a person to feel sad, cheered or disconnected. Dissonant harmony on the other hand could irritate and agitate a person. However, some music such as metallic rock music and hip hop have been found to cause people to develop violent behaviors. Although the behavior cannot be fully blamed on the music, the artists singing the songs encourage the use of drugs which to great extent explains their behavior. Listening to music alone rarely influences a person to become violent. However, when people abuse drugs, their state of mind is affected which makes music to have negative effects on them. It is therefore important that people are conscious of the type of music they listen to and the character of the artists they like watching.
In summary, music is one of the most important form of art that helps build emotional connection between people. It gives people a means to express their feelings enabling them to physical and emotionally connect to the world around them. Music also has many health benefits such as memory development, treatment of dementia and stroke. It is also an important way of teaching various subjects to children at a young age and gives teachers and parents an easy way if binding with them. However, if not well regulated, music could also have negative effects to its listeners.
Hoffer, Charles R. Teaching music in the secondary schools. Wadsworth Pub. Co, 1964.
Laminack, L. E. S. T. E. R., and R. E. B. A. Wadsworth. Learning under the influence of language and literature. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2006.
Raglio, Alfredo, et al. “Efficacy of music therapy in the treatment of behavioral and psychiatric symptoms of dementia.” Alzheimer Disease & Associated Disorders, 2008.