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The sound of music

I have often wondered at the power of music to affect the human condition.  The universality of music and its appeal; the way it speaks deeply to so many people; how so many of us have a 'soundtrack' to our lives; I find all this fascinating.

Back in 2011, the BBC ran an article on music:

Music releases a chemical in the brain that has a key role in setting good moods, a study has suggested. The study, reported in Nature Neuroscience, found that the chemical was released at moments of peak enjoyment.  Researchers from McGill University in Montreal said it was the first time that the chemical - called dopamine - had been tested in response to music.

Dopamine increases in response to other stimuli such as food and money. It is known to produce a feel-good state in response to certain tangible stimulants - from eating sweets to taking cocaine.

The Wise Living magazine, in 2021, ran an article along similar lines:

Scientists have been researching the benefits of listening to music too, with some surprising results. Researchers from Radboud University in the Netherlands and Sydney’s University of Technology recently found listening to ‘happy music’ can make us more creative.

Both pieces indicated that there is real evidence concerning the effect music has on us.  And it would seem that it is largely positive.  

But we already know this, right?  Whether it is to relax, to boost our mood, or to help us to concentrate and be creative, different kinds of music affect us all differently.

Last year, i-newspaper ran a larger article about the effects of music:

Whether it’s a Mozart prelude or a Black Sabbath screamer, music can have a profound effect on our mental health. Studies have shown that listening to music releases dopamine, the chemical in the brain that has a key role in creating good moods.

Music, while not a magic key to good mental health or a cure for depression by any means, can be used to regulate mood or reduce some symptoms of anxiety or depression.

Dr Victoria Tischler is a professor at Exeter University whose research focuses on creativity and mental health. “For those with anxiety,” she says, “instrumental, classic and ambient music can be used to decrease symptoms,”.

“Music can also be used to calm hospital patients undergoing medical procedures such as brain scans. There is good research evidence that shows that music is more than just a pleasurable pastime. Music listening stimulates a number of regions in the brain, thus explaining why it has such a strong impact and why it can be good for our wellbeing,” she says.

“Music stimulates brain regions responsible for attention, memory, movement and emotional processing. This is backed up by numerous studies from neuroscience, using techniques such as brain imaging scanning whilst people are listening to music, providing evidence of brain changes.”

The article suggested a 'Top tracks' for us to listen to, to see which music had the largest effect on us:

  1. ‘Weightless’, by Macaroni Union 
  2. ‘Electra’ by Airstream
  3. ‘Mellomaniac (Chill Out Mix)’ by DJ Shah
  4. ‘Watermark’ by Enya
  5. ‘Strawberry Swing’ by Coldplay
  6. ‘Please Don’t Go’ by Barcelona
  7. ‘Pure Shores’ by All Saints
  8. ‘Someone Like You’ by Adele
  9. ‘Canzonetta Sul’ aria by Mozart

So, I'm going to give these a try and see if I can use music to improve my life even more.  Certainly, I feel strongly about the positive affects of music.  And this is not even what happens when the music is live, or part of a show, or we are making it ourselves ...

Have a great and musical Easter break.

Matt Shroff
Director of Wellbeing

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