Musical Influence: How Music Affects Us

As many of us may have experienced, music has a very powerful influence on a variety of different cognitive abilities. There have been studies that suggest that listening to classical pieces could influence a persons spacial cognitive abilities (Rauscher, F.H., G.L. Shaw, and K.N. Ky). There have also been studies that suggest that babies can get smarter because they are introduced to music while still in their mothers womb (Lamont, A.). But whats the point of music? Is it an evolutionary process gone invalid? or is it supplement our necessity for simple amusement?

After reading an article by ABC Australia and considering the Dystopian society of “Equilibrium”, a world where people were not allowed to feel emotion, I have now come to the conclusion that music is probably a combination of both evolutionary necessity and practical amusement. I feel that now, music is just a form of amusement that we connect to on the biases of tempo, instrumentation, and harmonies; but I feel that at one time, we used a form of music to communicate as whales and birds do now. At one time in our history music was necessary for survival, we either lived or died. Most psychologists today would say that the connection between music and survival creates a emotional connection. I argue that this is true and that we still experience this today to some extent. Why do people play slow and depressing songs at funerals? Why do we play Queen’s “We are the Champions” when a team wins a championship? Its because of the connection we have primordially to the structure of the songs. Mozart’s Requiem is a very depressing piece that primarily has minor chordal structures with strong and deep bass instrumental presence that convey sadness and depression. This structure can be compared to that of the song of a whale who lost a mate or child. Their songs are on the lower end of the register and are elongated, giving the sense of grievance and sorrow. The opposite can be stated for “We are the champions”. The song is upbeat, containing strong major chordal structures that communicate triumph and success.

Music has always had an influence on how we perceive emotion and connection to on another. Even though it is no longer needed to survive, I believe that we use music to supplement or need to feel emotions in certain times of our lives. As a result music is still relevant and liked by society.

Rauscher, F.H., G.L. Shaw, and K.N. Ky, Music and spatial task performance. Nature, 1993. 365: p. 611.

Lamont, A., Infants’ preferences for familiar and unfamiliar music: A socio-cultural study, in Meeting of the Society for Music Perception and Cognition. 2001: Queens University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.

ABC Article


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