Since the dawn of time, music has played a vital role in the everyday lives of cultures and communities across the globe. While there are plenty of examples of the importance of music and how it has helped shape the course of humanity, an increasing number of people have posed the question, “how does music affect me?”.
With a seemingly endless number of ways to enjoy our tunes – thanks to advancements in technology – you can now enjoy your favorite songs from anywhere and everywhere. What effects, if any, does sound and audio have on our bodies, our minds and our health? We’ll discuss these potential impacts below, so that you can be well-informed about the issue the next time you fire up your MP3 player.
The History of Sound
Various archaeological studies have suggested that music and the art of dance preceded the concept of language itself. This is important to understand; without spoken language, the role of music in societies would have served as an ulterior form of communication. Some of the functions that song and dance served during this time included the ability to introduce each other and convey emotion without the need for spoken language.
In many cultures throughout the world, the concepts of sound and medicine were tightly intertwined. From the Far East to Native American cultures, the sound and body were considered reliant upon one another for thousands of years. It was only in the 1700s that the concept of health and music therapy began to take on different roles: since then, music has been considered a form of entertainment and medicine began to take a more scientific approach. Did some cultures take the wrong path in separating these two concepts, though?
Music’s Reported Effects on the Brain
There is plenty of modern evidence to suggest that music plays an important role in language development and a healthy emotional state.
Oxford University has reported that music can immensely aid those who suffer from motor disorders, making it possible for those with disorders such as Tourette’s syndrome and Parkinson’s can drastically improve their ability to both understand and speak with the aid of song. Music therapy has also been shown to stimulate neural activity in patients with Alzheimer’s, helping these individuals recall past details and associating long-lost memories with the present.
When we examine cultures in the Far East and in Medieval Europe, the notion of frequency in song has also been a long-standing consideration.
Some people may have heard of the Solfeggio frequencies, which correspond with the more commonly-known concept of “do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do”. Buddhist monks have long used these exact frequencies in meditation, while European artisans and musicians believed that the connection between these frequencies and song was of divine origin. One thing is clear: many cultures from around the world have associated powerful connotations with these frequencies without input from or collaboration with one another.
How Does Music Affect My Body?
While the effects of music on brain development and recovery are clear, how does music affect our bodies at-large?
For starters, Harvard University has found that the role of classical music can aid recent victims of heart attacks and surgeries in their recoveries. In addition to this vital benefit, regular sessions with your favorite audio tracks correlate to an increased performance of your immune system, making it a great preventative measure for the common cold and other airborne illnesses.
In addition to these findings, music can help those who suffer from seizures; when Mozart music was played via electronic piano for a trial group of seizure patients, most of them immediately began to suffer from fewer seizures. Forms of music therapy such as this are great, minimally-invasive ways to counter the negative effects that age and disease can have on our bodies.
The Short-term Effects of Music
Music has a tendency to lift our spirits and take us to a different world, and that is perhaps the most valuable short-term effect it provides. Whenever we are feeling down, we can plug in our earphones and enjoy some of our favorite tunes to feel better. The emotional release that music provides can be valuable in plenty of circumstances – those in which we already feel good and those in which we may be a bit down.
The release of endorphins during our favorite music sessions can also increase our motivation to exercise, which obviously can produce beneficial short-term and long-term health outcomes. With a recommended regimen of 30 minutes of exercise per day, music may be the key to fulfilling this oft-ignored mandate. The National Institutes of Health recommends the use of music while exercising to boost performance.
Our short-term memories are also dramatically improved through the use of music. While harsher, more intense forms of music can actually distract us and create false memories in retrospect, classical music and other, more soothing forms of music boost our ability to recall specific details and may even impact our ability to recall these instances over the long-term.
How Does Sound Impact Long-term Health?
Various studies have pointed out that classical music can play an important role in early childhood development, which is why so many people opt to listen to this genre while pregnant or with their newborns.
The effects are even more obvious for those who have learned how to play a musical instrument. One study by Northwestern University reported that those who play a musical instrument for at least four years will enjoy faster response times to speech and sound throughout their entire lives.
What This Means for You
The introduction of music at an early age in life can have a myriad number of positive effects on the human brain and body. Not only will most benefit from a better outlook on life and more enjoyment, but the health-related advantages are also numerous. Those who want to increase their ability to recall details, exercise more, stave off the aging process and be happy in general have a lot to benefit from if they incorporate music into their daily lives. The next time you fire up your MP3 player, remember that there’s a reason you enjoy music: it’s good for you!