Have you ever considered the effect music has on your mind and body?
Research shows a clear connection between music and its effect on our mind — look at how our children smile and begin to dance to a tune and a rhythm, and consider how well lullabies work on newborns. Music is known to cause the release of oxytocin, the ‘happiness’ or ‘cuddle’ hormone, and this effect is enhanced by increased volume. This explains why we feel euphoric at the end of a high-volume rock concert or after experiencing the full power of a symphony orchestra. Other areas of impact include improving and triggering out memory, increasing our capacity to learn, and enhancing our ability to pay attention and concentrate. The valuable role music can play in education is huge.
So, we are affected as individuals, but we are also affected as a group. Research published in 2013 described a study in Sweden which showed that the heart rates of singers in a choir were altered when singing together. When the choir began to sing, their heart rates slowed down. This wasn’t too surprising since singing is a form of guided breathing which has the same effect, but the real surprise was that in remarkable little time the heart rates of the individual singers became synchronised, and remained synchronised in parallel with changes to rhythm and tempo.
Calgary-based Spiritus Chamber Choir recently collaborated with Beakerhead to demonstrate some of these effects by attaching sensors to their singers during a concert and showing the output on monitors so that the audience could see what was happening, experiencing a very unusual perspective.
Of course there are sometimes unexpected and extreme cases of music interacting with the senses. For example the French composer Olivier Messiaen suffered from synesthesia, the sound of music triggered him to ‘see’ colours.