The innocence of Minnie Riperton, Barry White’s baritone, and the electricity that is Tina Turner are all sounds that spark different types of emotion. Upon hearing the first note of a familiar song, you associate that melody with a certain feeling. So, what is the connection between music and our emotions?
Instead of sharing a lot of terms about musicology, neurology or otorhinolaryngology (the medical practice involving the ear), here are some common sense facts that confirm how one affects the other.
One of the best ways to cure a broken heart is to crank up the radio and sing along to an upbeat song with empowering lyrics. “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor is one of the best examples of a power anthem that evokes feelings of triumph and pride. With songs like that, is hard to argue the theory that mid-tempo, harmonious music triggers happiness.
On the flip side, music has also been linked to anger, violence, or even deadly acts. “Stan” by Eminem, for example, tells the story of a deranged fan who commits suicide. Hip hop in general is a genre that openly discusses violence, and is heavily criticized for its negative impact. Regardless of your stance on the on-going issue, it’s not hard to find yourself nodding along to the beat of the Notorious B. I. G.’s “Who Shot Ya?” or “Hit ‘Em Up” by 2Pac.
On a lighter note, music also improves the quality of life. Studies published in the European Journal of Neuroscience have proven that music is beneficial to people who suffer from communication disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and autism. It was discovered that patients with these disorders improved in their ability to interact with others and express themselves because of the brain’s “emotional resonance of music”.
Spiritual or religious songs have also been credited with having therapeutic properties and reducing stress levels. In the same sense, R&B slow jams express love and romance, which studies have found can elicit arousal and feelings of delight. It is perfectly normal to get the urge to spend time with your lover after listening to a Teddy Pendergrass album or hearing a few songs on the quiet storm radio station.
We already know and appreciate the effect that emotions have in music (Lenny Williams, anyone?). Now, there is proof that confirms why “Ben” by Michael Jackson makes you secretly shed a tear when no one is looking. To put it simply, “Music is what feelings sound like.” -Author unknown
Roshunna Howard is a video editor, news producer and copy/technical writer. Follow her on Twitter @PenmanPro.