I hope you are all aware of how music effects you, but I suspect most have no idea. This is a fascinating subject that my husband and I have discussed and researched a lot over the years. According to our research, music comes from the root word "muse", as it's intention is to make you think. So in a perfect world, the psychological effects of music would simply be to make you think.
We have probably all heard of the studies on music with babies, leading to a boom in classical music baby CD's like "Baby Einstein" not long ago. Though this music is calming, and helps you concentrate, some have speculated that it isn't the music that necessarily makes a person smarter, but their genetics. Yet there is a definite connection to smart people and this music.
I could propose that it's not as much the music as the intelligence of the person that draws a person to the type of music they like. This in turn calms and helps their brain. "What came first, the chicken or the egg?" is what it inevitably comes down to. (Though that is a really silly, creation-belief-based-question, you get the idea right?)
It has been said that "Our thoughts are the seed from which the plant of our lives will grow. As that plant (our individual life path) grows, it is affected by many things, one of the largest influencers is music. The influence comes on both the conscious level by the words, and subconscious level. . ." (Which I believe to be the music or rhythm/beat/notes.)
On the flip side of these positive brain building effects, our thoughts and emotions as well as actions can be influenced negatively but unhealthy music. We see that heavy rock/metal, rap and country music (and probably others) because of it's beat alone it has an energizing, angering and depressing tendency on the actions, emotions and thoughts. This is seen in the group behavior of those listening to it in concerts, as well as parties, stores and at home. Studies have shown that depending on the music played in stores and restaurants, the people rush and wolf their food or act leisurely and calm. Consequently we can tell that this fast and rocky music is in turn stressful to the mind. Many people finding it even causes an immediate headache. How can you tell that music like this is stressful to the body?
The effect of stress is that:
- your heart beats faster,
- your blood pressure increases
- you breathe faster, pumping maximum oxygen and energy-rich blood to your muscles. (And away from your skin and extremities
- Your liver releases more sugar into your blood ready for action.
- sexual dysfunction,
- increases your chances of getting sick,
- often manifests as skin ailments.
(In fact, when you are stressed out, and riled up with the wrong type of music, it causes a chain reaction with many of your hormones! Stress depletes progesterone as well, and that causes an estrogen dominance, which causes poor responses to stress -think moody PMS- weight gain, inflammation, adrenal fatigue. . .
In evolutionary terms though, this is a remarkable system that has helped our species survive under attack, but exposing ourselves to this stress long term could literally be the death of us.)
Personally, I would classify a loud, repetitious, driving beat in music just obnoxious noise. Ironically, a noicy environment has the exact same effect on people. "Noise at home or school can affect children's ability to learn. Compared to kids from quieter neighborhoods, children living near airports or busy highways tend to have lower reading scores and develop language skills more slowly. Bad moods, lack of concentration, fatigue, and poor work performance can result from continual exposure to unpleasant noise"
"Included in noise-related problems are high blood pressure, peptic ulcers, cardiovascular deaths, strokes, suicides, degradation of the immune system, and impairment of learning. Noise is also associated with an increase in aggression and a decrease in cooperation."
Knowing the effects of music, good or bad, now let's analyze this topic a little deeper. . .Who chose our music preference as a child? Wasn't it preprogrammed in us from childhood, consequently effecting our thoughts, emotions, actions and health?
At some point we do seem to veer away from our parent's choices and choose our own music though, in a similar way that we choose our friends. We likely don't suspect the importance of our choices and how either will mold us, but they do. The real question is, do we originally get drawn to the music because of how we feel, or does the music of our culture, work environment and peers change us to feel like or mirror the music as we leave home? My experience is leading me to the latter.
I have seen in my own life how a life of mostly country gospel/bluegrass music made me look, act and sing like a cowgirl. Then I went to a conservative college, where it wasn't even allowed! They not only confiscated music that wasn't approved, but they had a strict and lady-like dress code and a certain way they taught the girls to act like a "lady". So I learned to dress, walk, and attempted to talk and sing "classically". . .all of which ironically went with the music they predominantly played. This point in my life led me to being a thinker, more organized, caring to impress people with the way I dressed and acted. . .but I also got proud of how I acted, and my crowd and also became analytical and skeptical about everything.
Next, probably because of too much thinking, we left even the somewhat mainstream belief of this fundamental and classical lifestyle, for an even more extreme and narrow life and music. Plain in every way, our music was without style, frills, mics or instruments. Even the ones I grew up playing I was told to get rid of as I would supposedly have pride in my abilities with them. . . (So I gave them to my parents, who have since thankfully returned them.) The clothes were very plain and old fashioned, and my hair was put up in a head covering. No make up was allowed either. How I decorated my house, the car we had, and even my husband's job was constantly checked on. This no frills life was so typical of the music we listened to there.
Leaving that life behind, both my husband and I naturally took our own paths both in music and somewhat style. (Influenced by our upbringings, choices and somewhat just what we were always drawn to.) Not both reaching the same beliefs until much later, where we have mostly settled upon soft pop, and classical music to influence us.
Here I want to mention though that as my wise friend said, "No one is a victim of life. We all make choices and are responsible for the influence we follow."
I have no shame in admitting that I've always liked a mix of Oldies, bluegrass, pop, (love songs) and classical music, whereas my husband, because of his past work environments, is a lot more into Pop, but with some classical still, while dabbling in doing some professional opera and renaissance as well. Our styles of clothes are, depending on the day, also a mix of those looks. So, in my experience, even when we aren't controlled by peer pressure from a religion or others, our music and lifestyles are closely tied. This connection is harder to peg though the more diverse the choices in music, nonetheless, I find it easy to tell what kind of music many people like, just by the way they dress and walk or talk.
Once I thought that my theory on music might be wrong, and that there was no connection to the style and the music. . .but then I found out that secretly the person had been listening to that music I pegged them for listen to, but knew they couldn't listen to. Alone in his truck as a trucker he had been slowly changing and letting it mold him for years. He was the only one to stand out in the cult I was in, as everyone else was listening to nothing but church music. (He was quickly excommunicated after that. . .) So as a friend said, "Be careful of whose influence you admire, [especially music] you may end up thinking like them and acting and looking like them." In this case, it was probably a good thing, in some others, not so.
So, interesting as this is, I have a point in bringing up the connection to music with intelligence (brain health) and lifestyle: because it also opens up our minds to different beliefs. We can see this in the typical music of the churches of today. Funny thing, in the time since we have moved to Virginia we basically went to a few of our old classic Baptist churches (to mostly humor the family that moved with us) before going our own way and finding a church that would accept our differing beliefs of the time, the Unitarian Universaist church. We have stayed there through many belief changes for both of us over 3 years or so. In this time our extended family, who started out believing and living the same as us, went back to their music that led them to the cult to begin with. Probably consequently, they have hardly stayed 6 months in a typical christian church before getting disgusted. Why did they leave? Music. The music was "offensive" and "worldly". Now they are in a small church that is not "perfect" doctrinally, and very conservative and traditional, but has "good" music that is not "dishonoring to God".
So, if you are drawn to classical/traditional/high church or calm meditative music, your options in this city (with a church on every corner) are down to the tiny extremely conservative fundamental type churches, (that I've never heard of a member not excusing away, ashamed or embarrassed of their churches judgmental bigoted or wrong beliefs, consequently they are now almost extinct) or (surprise!) the most liberal church in town, full of Atheists and Agnostics. Mine.
What do these both groups have in common that would drive them to the same music you ask? One very cookie cutter in their style and music, (if not beliefs and lifestyle), and the other one quite varied in their style, thoughts and even beliefs, while their lifestyle and music choices are generally, at least partially, very conservative. Could it be the music preferences of both show them to be the thinkers, and they all consequently have a problem with mainstream idiocy, including the immorality, irresponsibility, sheep-like behavior and music?
One group believing what they are doing to be just God's way, while the other believes the lifestyle and music choices are just self serving and common sense. Could it be that the thinkers in life go one of 2 ways:
- they dig in their heels, and practice their religion consistently and historically, away from the mainstream inconsistencies and hypocrisies, by putting on blinders to new research.
- Or they question religion with an humble and open mind, until they find answers and consequently most become very liberal and open minded Christians or leave religion all together!
It's a pretty good theory anyhow.