Friday, January 2, 2009

How Music Affects Emotion, Intelligence and Health

Socyberty - March 28, 2008
by Kellie Stewart


Socyberty is "a user powered website dedicated to providing the highest quality society oriented content on the web."
No biographical information was given for the author.

The introduction of this article states that, music moves us. It means something to us. It effects us physically.
Dancing and music have been part of the human culture possibly even before language evolved.

Stewart begins with notes about how babies relate to music they have heard in the womb and in their very early lives (with reference to various studies) then mentions the effect of a musical education on young people. She continues with comments on the effects of popular music on today's youth.

In the section about Music and the Mind, Stewart quotes William J. Cromie in an effort to briefly explain how the brain listens to and interprets musical sounds. She briefly touches upon the various areas within the brain and their functions. The last paragraph in this section deals with music triggering emotional responses.

The section entitled Music and Intelligence mentions that music at 60 beats per minute activates both the right and the left sides of the brain. In this section Stewart talks about music as a tool for learning. She talks about the Mozart effect study and the reactions to it. She also writes about Lozanov's Bulgarian study of learning a foreign language to classical music at 60 beats per minute and the Texan study of vocabulary memorization using Handel's Water Music.

The Music and Health segment details the history of music therapy and the many areas where it is making significant difference in many lives.

In the section on Music and Physical Activity Stewart talks about the effect music has on runners and how she feels it is unfair that runners are not allowed to use music players during competitions.


Even as a very inexperienced reader in the field of Music and Brain studies, it appears to me that this article is contains many generalizations, unsubstantiated claims and inaccuracies.

As the parent of a teenage girl who listens to pop music (although certainly not as long as the 40 hours per week average as given in the article) I don't agree that the music and or lyrics of the songs she listens to are, so far, having a negative effect on her. Just because one likes the beat or the melody of a song doesn't necessarily mean one is going to subscribe to the meaning of the words. Often the words are not all that intelligible anyway.

Stewart proposes the question of whether music in a minor key "naturally sounds bad or undesirable" or whether we have merely been socialized to think this in our particular cultures. I was not aware that this is an accepted opinion. I have often heard people refer to music in minor keys as being "sad", which is in itself questionable, but I don't recall hearing music in a minor key being called "bad".

I found the discussion of learning vocabulary and language with the assistance of music to be quite interesting and would be interested in reading more about this.

In the section on Music and Health, when discussing the therapeutic aspect of music, Stewart mentions environmental sounds such as chirping crickets and ocean waves. These may be therapeutic, perhaps, but they are not strictly musical sounds.

Stewart's personal opinions about the use of iPods etc. for runners might best have been omitted.

It's interesting to me that of the 10 comments posted after the article, none are critical of it.

It occurred to me that this article might not even compare favourably to an entry in the online source Wikipedia, so I checked it out and, in my opinion, a reader would do better to select the Music and the Brain article in Wikipedia for a general introduction to the subject.

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