Sunday, December 28, 2008

Michelle Minke
Reading Response #1
Music and the Brain, Lee Bartel
Dec. 7, 2008

The Coloring of Life: Music and MoodCopyright © 1996 Norman M. Weinbergerand the Regents of the University of California

The article by Norman Weinberger states the possibility that everything we experience and observe is objective to the music that we listen to. He believes that “we see objectively, remember accurately, think rationally and act appropriately” but throughout the day, our perceptions and memories are strongly influenced by outside factors that change our mood, music being the topic of discussion. If you listen to happy music, you are more likely to feel happy, and if it is a sad song, your mood can be altered into feeling sad or depressed.
The Optimism/Pessimism Questionnaire (OPQ), the Multiple Affect Adjective Check List, and the Wessman-Ricks Elation and Depression Scale have shown that the mood of a piece invokes the same mood in the listener. He applied this to a language study where happy and sad music was played to a group and then tested for word memory, positive words were remembered from the happy songs, and negative words from the sad songs. In a study of art and music, neutral paintings were shown while different music was played for the observer. When asked what “mood” the painting created, the people who heard happy music, said that it was a happy painting, the people who heard sad music, saw a sad painting. The same test was also done not only for language, and for objects, but also on our first impressions of faces. When shown a picture of someone with a neutral face and happy music was played, they saw a pleasant easy going person, when the neutral face was seen with sad music, people generally saw a rejected and sad individual. He believes this research should give us a reason to pause and think about what “real life” is . Music is inevitably complex and has powerful influences therefore it is important to acknowledge the affect that music has on our daily transactions. To reflect on how music alters our memory, attention, perception, and how we judge situations and other people.

This article brought up an interesting point besides the basic idea that happy music makes us happy and vise versa. I have personally experienced each of these “transactions” where I am sure the musical influence at that time altered my perspective. There have been songs on the radio that I don’t necessarily like but because they put me in a certain mood, I could be caught singing the cheesy chorus with uplifting words at the top of my lungs in my car. I have been to art openings where the artists choice of music made me feel a greater connection to their work. I have been in a positive mood and gone to a class where someone brought tears to my eyes while singing Mahler, giving me a feeling of reflection and sadness that stayed with me the rest of the day. The music that light shines on our perception of people probably plays more of a role than we think it does. When I am listening to music on my Ipod on the subway, depending on my choice of music, the people that rush through the doors can either look weary and tired or look like they are living the big city life in the energized hustle and bustle of Young and Bloor station. When I listen to the classic music of Frank Sinatra in a Starbucks and look over at a young couple, they could be talking about grocery shopping but the sentimental music has influenced me to think they are having an intimate conversation. What would life be like if we observed it without musical influence? Would that make life more real? How much of an influence does the radio station we choose in the morning as our alarm have over us and our mood for that day?
According to Norman Weinberger’s theory of music’s influence on our mood , perhaps music offers us some control over our lives, by affecting our mood, motivation, positivity, productivity, social awareness, and overall stress of life.

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