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What is music?

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As Ferruccio Busoni stated, “Music is the art of sounds in the movement of time.” Fundamentally, music is a combination of sounds which are essentially vibrations. It’s interesting to wrap our heads around the thought that a small vibration can ease an emotional experience, change one’s perception, and create a euphoric state of mind or being. It can be alive in concerts, recordings, or simply at home during the night. It has enlightened our lives capturing moments that live in our memory. We can listen to a familiar beat or rhythm and our brains will instantly take us to a fond remembrance- even if it was dancing alone in your bedroom. In a span of ten years, scientist have developed necessities needed in order to find links between the human life and music.

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They have found that music is essential in our day to day lives, binding us together as humans. There are many aspects of music but among them are seven important ones being- rhythm, melody, harmony, timbre, form, texture and dynamics. At our emotional core, all elements come together and are felt as joy, sadness, anger and many other feelings. Not all of us respond the same to different types of music, having different physiological reactions. A study using music by Anne Blood and Robert Zatorre was used to conclude thoughts on the physiological response of humans. Musicians were used as subjects, testing their muscle tension, skin response, and pulse rates. While listening to episodes that gave them a spine-tingling sensation- their breathing deepened, their heart rates increased and their muscle tension had doubled twice since the time that they started. These results indicated that music can definitely affect the bodily functions that were mentioned. Other studies that were done connecting music to heart rate and blood pressure showed the “rhythmicity in the heartbeat that varied with the music.” A factor that connects our functions to rhythms is the way the we and our bodies echo the music and vice versa. This occurs where there is synchronization between rhythmic cycles creating parallels of an emotion.

This is called musical entrainment- generating the feeling of movement and dance forming an exhilarating mood. We also respond to music through the hormones that roam our system. Stress hormones such as ACTH, which releases adrenaline and cortisol into the body’s blood stream. The two join to release glucose for energy, therefore increasing blood flow to the muscles. A study conducted by The Free University of Berlin looked at the blood cortisol in subjects who were shown three types of music. The music chosen were a simple waltz by Johann Strauss, a contemporary piece with an irregular rhythm by H.W. Henze, and a passage with a calm rhythm. The results showed that the levels of cortisol were reduced when the individuals were exposed to the piece by Ravi Shankar. This shows that music had an effect on hormone production and that a much relaxing sound released less cortisol-meaning the individual experienced less stress showing more signs of a happy attitude.

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