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The power of music

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Published: Mon, 22 Jun 2015

The Power of Music

Music surrounds us in our everyday lives. We hear it when we are in the car, at work, when we are shopping, at restaurants, at doctor’s offices, and many more places. The music serves a purpose other than entertainment at many of these places.  Music has the power to influence mood and behavior in people and it is no secret that it is used at every available opportunity. We are introduced to music in our mother’s womb even before we are born. It is used to sooth, to hype up, to educate, for entertainment, as a medium to remember information, for medical purposes, and so much more. Music is used in many ways to improve and enhance the lives of people. It is meant to be consumed, whether it is by the listener, performer, or composer. It is a way to translate feelings and desires that are sometimes difficult to express using language.

The style of music has changed dramatically throughout the ages. For instance, there are six main eras in music history. The Middle Ages, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Twentieth Century. The music in these eras reflects the time period. Music has been and always will be a popular form of entertainment for many. The dictionary defines “music” as an art of sound in time that expresses ideas and emotions in significant forms through the elements of rhythm, melody, harmony, and color(Dictionary).

Music has the ability and power to influence human thoughts and behaviors. Employers and retail stores use the power of music to produce a desired behavior from their employees and customers. For example, according to The Journal of Marketing, background music is thought to improve the store’s image, make employees happier, reduce employee turnover rate, and to stimulate customer purchasing (Milliman).

Does music actually influence mood and behavior? What is it about music that affects mood? According to an article in the Music Educators Journal, volume, tempo, consonance, dissonance, tone color and form all may have an effect on a person’s mood (Gaston). It is not just the music itself that has an effect on people; the lyrics of a song can also have an effect. Many people are concerned that music with violent or derogatory lyrics may have a negative effect on youth and provoke violent behavior. Many researchers have examined the effects of how music provokes violent behavior. In a study conducted at Western Connecticut State University researchers examined whether or not watching a violent music video would provoke the participants to answer questions with violent responses. There were thirty-three participants, eleven in each of three groups; one group watched violent music videos, another group watched non-violent music videos, and the last group did not watch any videos. Afterward, the participants were given a questionnaire. The study found that the violent music videos did provoke participants to react more violently when answering questions about hypothetical scenarios (Tropeano).

People are introduced to music even before they are born. According to an article in Pregnancy Today, by the fifth month of pregnancy the baby’s hearing is completely developed and they are able to hear noises that are outside the womb. Prenatal stimulation through music may provide some babies with a sense of confidence and relaxation when they are born (Lacey).

In 1993 a study was conducted in Irvine, California by Dr. Francis Raucher, Dr. Gordon L. Shaw, and their colleagues on a group of thirty-six undergraduate college students it was found that they improved their spatial-temporal intelligence (the ability to mentally manipulate objects in three-dimensional space) after listening to 10 minutes of a Mozart sonata. The results of the study showed that student’ IQ scores improved by 8-9 points and lasted for 10-15 minutes. This study was coined the “Mozart effect (Jones).”

Music is sometimes used to relax and soothe people. After a stressful event, listening to calming or classical music relaxes the body and mind. Music can also induce a more positive state of mind. It has long been believed that music can also act as an aphrodisiac (an element, either natural or chemical, that stimulates a sexual desire). Human senses are powerful and can trigger emotion. The type of music depends on the person. Music triggers different emotions in different people. What one person enjoys and is stimulated by could disgust and upset someone else.

Many people use music as a way to get “pumped” up. Gyms usually play music with a faster tempo to increase speed and motivation. According to a study on musical tempo an increased tempo increased the speed in which people preformed simple tasks. It also affected the participants in the study by acting as a stressor and increasing their heart rate. When the tempo of the music was reduced the heart rate decreased (Mayfield). Music with a fast tempo and stimulates and demands physical activity.

Music therapy is growing in the field of medicine. Its calming effects can help reduce anxiety and ward off the negative effects of stress (Stress and the Environment). This can help by reducing the negative effect t the stress response has on the body and mind. Music is used for medical purposes such as lowering blood pressure and autism. In an Italian study twenty-eight people’s blood pressure was monitored for twenty-four hours. They were then given a CD of classical, Celtic, or Indian music to listen to for thirty minutes per day for one month. After the month the patient’s blood pressure was monitored once again. The patient’s blood pressure did in fact drop. Their average systolic blood pressure (the first number in a blood pressure reading) had dropped three points, and their average diastolic blood pressure (the second number in a blood pressure reading) had dropped four points. There were twenty other patients who did not listen to music and after monitoring their blood pressure, there was no change (Hitti).

Children who have been diagnosed with autism receive many benefits from music therapy. Depending on where children are placed on the autism spectrum music can assist with communication and provide structural regularity that the children need (downey).

We have seen that music is used for healing but what about as a weapon of war? In 1989, music used as a weapon to torture first came into light. U.S. Troops blared loud music in an effort to induce the surrender of Manual Norriega, the Panamanian president. According to an article written by Suzanne G. Cusick this form of torture, called “acoustic bombardment” went mainstream after the cold war and is a common practice on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan in “Operation Enduring Freedom” (Cusick). The US also used this “acoustic bombardment” during interrogations in Guantanamo (Rapp).

What is it about music that has such a profound effect on the human mind and body? Research has shown that music with a strong beat can stimulate brain waves to sync with the beat. The fast beat encourages sharper thinking and better concentration whereas the slower beat creates a relaxed almost meditative state. Music can also stimulate the brain to “change gears” easier. It effects remain evident even when you are done listening (Saarman).

Using music to advertise is a good way to for a company to get the attention of a potential client or customer and for them to purchase the product or service that they are offering. Jingles are often easier for people to remember than just plain information. Many companies use popular artists or songs as a medium to advertise their products. One such company is Dr. Pepper. Their advertisements feature popular songs in hopes of getting the attention and marketing to the specific demographic associated with the song.

By using music in advertising the company wants the listener to associate the song or tune with the product or service so when they hear the song they will think of the product or service. This is a great way for people to remember what they are selling.

Religion uses music as a means to express ones faith and devotion. Johann Sebastian Bach, one of the world’s most famous and influential composers, wrote most of his music for the Lutheran church. Modern Christian songs are derived from popular music tunes and uses religious lyrics. According to an article written by Lorenzo Candelaria who is an assistant music professor at the University of Texas at Austin, “‘Sacred music and art allow us to touch the face of God, through our perception of the world around us.'” He believes that music is a way for people to understand their faith and spirituality and is a direct way for people to try to make sense of life and the afterlife (Moini).

Music is sometimes used solely for entertainment purposes and accompanies many group and individual activities. Must is played in places such as dance clubs and skating rinks and produces a feeling of power. Faster music will control the speed at which you skate or dance or put you in the mood to do any of these activities.  Music is almost always used in movies. It can used to produce the feeling of suspense or excitement. It is used in tear-jerkers to solicit an emotional response of empathy.

As you can see music has been and will always be woven into the fabric of our society. There are many uses for music and it has many hidden meaning and uses. Who knew that music was such a powerful tool and could have so many effects on the human body and mind? Its power spans from entertainment and fun to the ability to heal, reducing stress, creating a desired atmosphere for shoppers and employees, and so much more. What does the future of music hold for us?


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