June 7th, 2016
What exactly is music doing to us? And what is music actually?
The latter question is often answered by describing the musical effects but the definition stays vague. The French musicologist Nattiez affirms that “the border between music and noise is always culturally defined” – thus, there is no universal concept. In order to answer the first question, numerous scientists investigated the relationship between music and body responses over the last decades. The Italian medicine professors Cervellin and Lippi give a review over the
current scientific state.
Some findings: The localization of music perception in the brain is revealed quiet exactly whereas different brain areas are activated in inexpert listeners (“intuitive” right hemisphere) and in musicians (“rational” left hemisphere). But apart from the brain, also the heart is involved in music perception. Karajan’s heard rate was measured while he conducted and later listened to Beethoven’s “Leonore”. In both cases the rate increased during the most emotional passages – independently from the active physical involvement. Moreover, tests prove the effects of music on respiratory rate and blood pressure.
Music perception is hence highly physical. Medics take advantage of this fact. They already developed treatments against Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis and spasticity. In the field of surgery, medics hope that in future they will be able to reduce the dosing of drugs with the help of music. It could possibly serve to decrease the pre- and postoperative stress.
Yet, many questions remain open: Which pieces are suited best to heal particular diseases? Which genre? Is there any degree of musical education necessary for a successful treatment? Or would that even be obstructive?
Maybe, the best solution is to go with John Cage: “Everything we do is music.”
Gianfranco Cervellin, & Giuseppe Lippi (2011). From music-beat to heart-beat: A journey in the complex interactions between music, brain and heart European Journal of Internal Medicine, 22 (4) : 10.1016/j.ejim.2011.02.019