The Amazing Power of Music (Part 3)


Posted by upbeat | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on September 4, 2015

Have you ever asked yourself why music has the power to influence or change the way you feel? We’ve all heard of the term ‘mood music’. But why is it that music can lift us, calm us, even make us joyous or sad? Music can evoke memories in us which in turn can have an impact on our mood. But why is it, as human beings, that we like for example, music with ‘a good beat’? Most music (other than some 20th Century atonal or serial music) has an indentifiable pulse or beat, usually grouping these beats in 2, 3 or 4 beats per bar (or measure). Why is it important for us ‘to feel’ a regular beat that we might clap or tap along to or move in time with?

I would suggest it is because to be human is to be musical. Certainly ryhthmical. We all have a body-clock. Our beating heart beat keeps us alive. It beats at a regular pace and when we exercise or get excited it speeds up. When we’re relaxed or sleeping it goes at a steady moderate pace. If we listen actively to lively, fast music our heart beat picks up speed. Music’s calming or stimulating qualities are not only related to the speed of the beat. This can also relate to the texture or timbre of the music e.g. a beautiful solo violin, a heavy rock band, or a film score played by a symphony orchestra. Composers and performers hope that the listener will be stimulated in ways which provoke a variety of emotional responses. Marches for soldiers, lullabies for babies, football chanting crowds, and hymn singing in church all rely heavily on the basic rhythms of heartbeat, pulse, breathing, walking and rocking to create group empathy.

We all like a good beat, because it’s intrinsically how we’re already made. The natural rhythms of human life and indeed the natural patterns of our world have shaped us to be governed by rhythmic patterns and cycles. We enjoy pattern and form and recognise and understand it. A key building block of music is rhythm and pattern, and as humans we’re that already. Is it any wonder we respond so emotively to music with a strong beat? And another thing. Our human body houses the most amazing musical instrument  –  our voice.

The Amazing Power of Music (Part 2)


Posted by upbeat | Posted in Creativity | Posted on September 2, 2015

After my usual busy day today, phone calls to schools, a meeting with finance officers, another meeting as part of a service review and finally a meeting in a rural school with a Head Teacher at the end of the day, I got home and caught a little bit of the Scottish news on TV. It was heartwarming to see a feature from Aberdeen where a family were able (with the help of an App) to build a music playlist for an elderly man with dementia. Although this gentleman was apparently at an advanced stage of dementia, the music tracks he listened to triggered his memory and he would sing along to the words of the songs. It also provoked in him emotions of joy and sadness.

I believe human beings are intrinsically musical. Even those who claim to be tone-deaf. And, as an aside, people claiming to be ‘tone-deaf’, just ain’t! Even those that say they are ‘tone-deaf’ still love music, enjoy it and can be moved by it. Our brains are hard-wired to form strong musical connections with long-term memory. A scientific study in Northern Ireland reported that ‘newborns who had been exposed to the theme of a popular TV programme during pregnancy exhibited changes in heart-rate, number of movements and behavioural state 2-4 days after birth. These effects could be attributed to pre-natal exposure alone and not to post-natal exposure or genetic dispostion, and were specific to the tune learned.’  The mums had been watching ‘Neighbours’ during pregnancy and the babies had learned the tune before birth.

People with diseases that have damaged the brain can have a greatly enhanced quality of life through listening to favourite music tracks. Families can help in preparing these, as they know what musical favourites will likely be enjoyed and remembered by the dementia patient. There are many ways music can and does impact on our lives. Take for example a menial task like washing the dishes (for those that don’t have dishwasher machines!). The task is made so much more enjoyable if music you enjoy is playing, is it not? Why is it that music can actually change our mood? Why is it that we like music with a strong ‘beat’? In my next post, I’ll do my best to put forward some reasons for these.


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