Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, and life to everything… Without music, life would be an error. (Plato)
Mid-summer solstice- #WorldMusicDay Music awareness day -all concerts and events are free and accessible to the public.
This article has been written as the result of a world wide literature review of authoritative articles which address the Power of Music (as defined by this study). The website for this report seems to be out-of-service; but the sponsoring organization can be found at the Performing Rights Society for New Music.
This report is also available in hard copy format from the main author:
David Francis, The Performing Right Society, 29 – 33 Berners Street, London, W1T 3AB
Music is a very powerful medium and in some societies there have been attempts to control its use. It is powerful at the level of the social group because it facilitates communication which goes beyond words, enables meanings to be shared, and promotes the development and maintenance of individual, group, cultural and national identities. It is powerful at the individual level because it can induce multiple responses – physiological, movement, mood, emotional, cognitive and behavioral. Few other stimuli have effects on such a wide range of human functions. The brain’s multiple processing of music can make it difficult to predict the particular effects of any piece of music on any individual.
The power of music to act therapeutically has long been recognized. Therapy can involve listening to or actively making music. Increasingly it may involve both. Music can be effective in conjunction with other interventions in promoting relaxation, alleviating anxiety and pain in medicine and dentistry, and promoting well-being through the production of particular endorphins. Its therapeutic uses have been explored extensively with particular groups of patients, the elderly, those with brain damage, and those with persistent pain. It has also been used to promote appropriate behavior in vulnerable groups and enhance the quality of life of those who cannot be helped medically.
Music can play an important part in human development in the early years stimulating foetuses and infants in such a way as to promote their wellbeing. Early interactions between mother and child have an essentially musical quality which assists in the development of communication skills. Listening to music or being involved in making it does not seem to directly affect intelligence, although active involvement in music making may enhance self-esteem and promote the development of a range of social and transferable skills. Listening to quiet, relaxing background music can improve performance on a range of academic tasks, while exciting music may interfere. Memorisation can be particularly affected. Adults are able to mediate the effects of interference through the adoption of coping strategies.
The increased availability of music seems to be encouraging people to use music to manipulate their own moods, reduce stress, alleviate boredom while undertaking tedious or repetitive tasks, and create environments appropriate for particular kinds of social occasion. In short, music is being used by individuals to enhance the quality of their lives.
In parallel with this, there is a large industry concerned with the effects of music on workers and consumers. Music can influence our purchasing behavior in subtle ways in a range of environments. It can assist our ability to remember product names and enhance the product through association with liked music. When consumers are actively involved in making a decision about buying a product, music is likely to play a more peripheral role. The evidence outlined above indicates the extent to which music pervades our everyday lives and influences our behavior. This demand for music is likely to continue to increase. To support our appetite for music, the music industries in the developed world constitute a major element of the economies of many countries. They are in danger of losing their skilled work force in the future because of the extent to which music is taken for granted.
Much of the research into the effects of music on intellectual and personal development, concentration, anxiety, pain reduction, and behavior in a range of settings has tended to ignore the possible effects of cognition at the individual level. This is an important omission. Such research as there is suggests that our thinking about music has a powerful impact on our responses to it. If we wish to understand how music affects our lives we have to take account of the experiences of the individual. The evidence suggests that many people have already discovered that music is good for them. Now we need to develop an understanding of exactly why and in what circumstances.
This will require a multi-disciplinary approach to take account of the many factors which may be important. These may include, the society or culture to which the individual belongs, sub-group membership, individual characteristics including gender, age, prior experiences of music, current mood, whether the music is self or other selected and the extent to which music is considered important in the individual’s life. To explore these issues a wide range of methodologies will need to be adopted which are capable of exploring the individual’s subjective experiences of music while also taking account of those responses of which they are unaware.
There is also a need for more systematic investigation of the ways that music can impact on groups of people in social settings. To date, research has tended to focus on commercial and work environments. The way that music may affect behavior in public places has been neglected. Such research, for instance, might explore whether particular types of music might stimulate orderly exits from large public functions, reduce the incidence of disorder in particular settings, increase tolerance when people have to queue for relatively long periods of time or engender feelings of well being and safety in public places.
The Power of Music – Susan Hallam
All kinds of music are now available to most people, 24 hours a day, at the touch of a switch.
Music is a very powerful medium. In some societies this is recognized and attempts are made to control music by those in power.
Music is powerful at the level of the social group because it facilitates communication which goes beyond words, induces shared emotional reactions and supports the development of group identity
Music is powerful at the individual level because it can induce multiple responses – physiological, movement, mood, emotional, cognitive and behavioral.
The brain’s multiple processing of music makes it difficult to predict the particular effect of any piece of music on any individual.
Music has powerful therapeutic effects which can be achieved through listening or active music making.
Music can promote relaxation, alleviate anxiety and pain, promote appropriate behavior in vulnerable groups and enhance the quality of life of those who are beyond medical help.
Music can play an important part in enhancing human development in the early years.
Active involvement in music making in children may increase self-esteem and promote the development of a range of social and transferable skills.
People can use music in their lives to manipulate their moods, alleviate the boredom of tedious tasks, and create environments appropriate for particular social events.
The easy availability of music in everyday life is encouraging individuals to use music to optimise their sense of well-being.
Music can influence our behavior in ways which are beyond our conscious awareness. Knowledge of these effects can be used to manipulate our work and purchasing behavior.
The easy availability of music means that it tends to be taken for granted. This can lead to neglect in considering how the infrastructure supporting music and musicians is resourced, maintained and developed.
Celebrating music day with Melanie