The health effects of music

Owing to the release of dopamine listening to music makes you feel good. This much is known. Studies by Levitin and others suggest the brain’s natural opioids also play a part. Their findings might help explain why music can act as an analgesic, and support its use by some hospitals to help relieve pain after surgery.

Some types of music may have greater healing potential than others. A key factor appears to be rhythm. One reason is that neurons in the brainstem seem to fire synchronously with the tempo of sounds we hear. In a review of research on the neurochemistry of music, Levitin and his colleague Mona Lisa Chanda cited research showing that slow-tempo music can reduce heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature and other responses controlled by the brainstem. Such rhythm effects might help music combat stress and anxiety.

Research by Peter Sleight at Oxford indicates that slow music with a 10-second repetitive cycle calms listeners. He believes this is because it matches the length of a cycle of signals sent from the brain to the heart to regulate blood pressure. Music by Verdi, as well as the slow movements of Beethoven’s ninth symphony and the arias in Puccini’s opera Turandot are rich in such 10-second cycles. (based on an article in New Scientist, Sept 2015).

My comment: So why is it that orchestras and pianists in particular, now play pieces far to loudly and very much faster than a generation ago? I personally get exasperated with this, but it does one surefire thing- it gets the audience on its feet in frenzied enthusiasm.

Yes, the standing ovation! Some music is intended to stimulate and excite, but it is usually accompanied by other, slower, quieter passages, so that the audience is treated to a wide range of moods. The current trend is away from the gentle, musical treatment of music towards crude sensational “sturm und drang”- to its great loss.

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