Music, Emotions and the Brain

In a video clip, a round-faced baby -no older than 2- is shown staring fixedly ahead, big tears slowly forming in his eyes and rolling down his cheeks. He seems to be in a trance. He is listening to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. It is as if he had known sorrow in a previous life and is being reminded of it. For where else would he have encountered sadness and been touched by it at such an early age?

On a city street an adolescent, violin tucked under his chin, is performing a lively tune, some passing teenagers have stopped to listen. Suddenly and spontaneously they start performing the most intricate steps, stomping, swirling and creating their own dance in tune with the music. It is as if the sounds were flying straight to their feet, and directing them to bend, turn and clap. Where did those joyful sounds find a home?

In all popular songs the heart is supposed the repository of all emotions especially romantic love. It is your heart that feels joy desire, distress, sorrow and fulfillment. At the risk of greatly disappointing young lovers, one must recognize that the heart is nothing but a tireless blood pumping machine, it is all happening in our head. or more exactly, in the brain. Listening to music creates emotions that increase the amount of dopamine in the brain.Dopamine controls the brain’s reward and pleasure centers.

When a mother sings a lullaby to a newborn child the hormone oxytocin is released and results in a soothing effect and an uplifting mood. Autistic children can react to music beause it goes directly
to the brain and the subconscious.It helps in dealing with grief and sadness.Even joyful music can make us cry because it nostalgically reminds us of gone happy times. And we like melancholic music
and sometimes take pleasure at being sad.

Mozart wrote his first sympnony when he was 8 and already had a distinct voice. Chopin started composing at age 7. How emotionally mature were they? Could they have been merely mimicking feelings of sadness or longing?

And where did the voices in their heads come from? The pianist Lang Lang tells us that at age 2 he was watching a Tom and Jerry cartoon on television when he heard Franz Liszt Rhapsody No,2 and ran to the TV, entranced by the music.

What about background music?It is supposed to create a mood even though we mostly half listen to it and at tims forget that it is there. What if restaurants stopped playing it? Would we suddenly be startled by the sound of our own voices ? And why do we get tired to the point of boredom by some music (I no longer enjoy Grieg and even Dvorak) but can listen endlessly to some other? (For me it is all 18th century and especially baroque music)

It looks like I have more questions than answers but I know there will always be music in my life. But at times there will be complete silence too.

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JosepheneAbigailTeri MantleSimoneT Dragon Recent comment authors
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Zac
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Zac

a beautiful reflection. Thank you for sharing it with us!

T Dragon
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T Dragon

It’s interesting to think about why autistic children have such as strong reaction to music therapy. Teaching an autistic child to play an instrument, for instance, and then having them play in a group setting can help them by first bonding with the instrument and then open up to others that are learning to bond with their instruments as well.

Teri Mantle
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Teri Mantle

I once knew a paramedic that said they used music in the ambulance to calm accident victims. He said that sometimes it took a while to find the type of music that worked for each individual but once they did, the transformation was amazing. Just another example of the power of music.

Abigail
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Abigail

Music is a good aspect of life. In fact, I do say music is life. It soothes and calms the listener taking them to a different world which can be just the place they have always imagined. It speaks to the soul and sometimes you find yourself lost in it.

Josephene
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Josephene

I just find music to be my escape from the world. It’s peaceful and depending on your choice of songs, it can speak directly to your heart and put you in a place of happiness and bliss.