I have already written about the effect of the vibration of our speech and the words we use every day. But music could also be a very powerful tool for mass influence. Music has always been a part of human life. We simply cannot imagine our world without it! So, why is it so important to us? What effect different melodies have on our bodies?
“Music, uniquely among the arts, is both completely abstract and profoundly emotional. It has no power to represent anything particular or external, but it has a unique power to express states or feelings. Music can pierce the heart directly; it needs no mediation.”
Speech vs. Music
We tend to associate speech and music as very similar for they are both perceived by our auditory system. But scientists have proven that to the brain they are very different – speech is recognized by the left part of the brain (the logical and analytical part), whereas music is perceived by the right hemisphere (the artistic one). Archeological data also suggests that music evolved even before human speech, which raises significant questions about the meaning and power of music.
Music and the Limbic system
Many scientific and biological studies reveal that music is one of the strongest stimuli that affect our Limbic system. The human Limbic system (a.k.a. paleommamalian complex) is a brain structure that is responsible primary for our survival instincts through emotions. Thus, different melodies are found to affect our deep emotional system in an instant. Have you ever heard a song that immediately makes you burst into tears or one that makes you feel cheerful and jolly?
As we know, human emotions are related to the hormone secretion. This means that certain melodies can cause our bodies to produce more “happiness” hormones (Dopamine, Serotonin, Endorphin etc.) or on the other hand – stress hormones such as Cortisol and Epinephrine. In this line of thought, the effect of the music we listen to on a regular basis could be profound – in a positive or a negative way.
Interesting facts and theories about the power of sound
The influence of music on human emotions has been understood and used from ancient times. Just think about the war drums used in every tribal combat. Throughout history we can see that there is always a drummer on the battlefield. The reason is obvious – the Martian music evokes the fight-or-flight hormonal response from the Limbic system which prepares the body of the soldier for combat.
The exact same thing has been used during World War II. Hitler has become notorious for his abilities to influence the masses. But he couldn’t be able to do so without his understanding of the power of sound. There is a persistent rumor which suggests that before his speeches, the crowd had been exposed to very low frequency sounds that cannot be detected by our ears (the so called “brown noise”). These sounds could make people feel extremely unwell and uneasy. Just at the beginning of Hitler’s talk, the sound would be shut off and the masses would begin to feel much better. Subsequently, they would associate Hitler himself to the feeling of wellbeing, trust and comfort.
There was another sly trick that he used. I have already mentioned that battle music can put soldiers into fight mode in seconds. But Hitler took a step further – he and his propaganda genius Joseph Goebbels changed the frequency of the note A into 440Hz* (which according to the Schumann resonance should naturally be 432Hz). This frequency change used in their Martial music was supposed to increase the feeling of chaos and aggression in soldiers.
Well, enough conspiracies!
Let’s bring our focus again on the bright examples!
We have all heard about the healing properties of music.
Biological tests show that classical music, such as Mozart’s, can improve the emotional and physical condition of the human body and the activity of the brain. Gregorian chants and the Tibetan “singing” bowels are also found to greatly benefit our health – better immune system, lower blood pressure, less tension and anxiety. An ENT expert Dr. Tomatis discovered that the monks living in a monastery in very ascetic conditions became very ill as soon as they stopped chanting. So, he suggested they started singing again. And soon enough their health and wellbeing was restored. These empirical results led him to the conclusion that music and singing is a very powerful tool for health improvement.
How to use music in everyday life?
We accept listening to music as something to do just for fun and pleasure. And it is! But we can use it more consciously in our favor in a very easy way – just by picking a melody that can improve our mood. For me, the only thing that matters is the emotional effect that certain songs induce and every musical genre can have uplifting tunes that give you goosebumps. Unless of course you like being depressed and melancholic – there are tons of sounds that can help you achieve this feeling.
One more thing though – don’t become paranoid about every song and sound that is being played! If you like it – enjoy it, if it annoys you – ditch it!
If you liked this article and found it helpful, share it, send it to someone who might also benefit from it, or leave a comment below and let me know what are your thoughts on the matter!
*I saw this in a documentary about WWII on History Channel.