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Lighthouse - March, 2019.

Mood Music

Multitude types of sound – office chatter, crowds cheering, car horns blaring, babies crying, dogs barking, birds singing and waves breaking on the shore, all affect us in different ways. Often we fail to recognise their impact as we relegate them to the backdrop hubbub of what we are doing. However all these sounds influence us, and the way we feel within our environment, especially when we are unable to control them.

Sounds have long been thought to influence human emotions and the significance of music has raised considerable interest amongst researchers. Understanding music-induced emotions, and its capability of influencing our moods, has gained greater importance. Music has been a part of our inheritance over many years. Classical music has an unbroken living tradition which goes back over a thousand years. Music played an important role in William Shakespeare’s plays. In ‘Twelfth Night’, written in 1602, Duke Orinso considers his infatuation with music might cure his obsession with love. He compares how eating too much food quells one’s appetite by musing;

‘If music be the food of love, play on’.
Whilst Shakespeare recognised music as feeding the emotions, scientific study of this phenomena have been rare until relatively recently. There is now significant interest amongst the science and medical professions. Businesses that also need to make a connection with their customers, in order to make their product attractive, now focus on the impact music makes.

So how and why does music affect us?
The initial impact is the beat. This fundamental driving component actually causes our hearts to start to beat in synch with the rhythm. This happens as the music starts to encroach into our personal environment. With background music it is an almost stealth-like. If we are immersing ourselves in the sounds the effect is more immediate. A slow beat causes our heart to slow and, depending on the ‘key’ of the song, it may either convey love or sadness. The ‘key’ is just as important as the beat because the choice of ‘key’ influences the feel a tune. A ‘major key’ tune will usually feel cheerful and convey an upbeat message to our brains but a ‘minor key’ will cause sadness. Equally a fast moving tune, depending on the key, can make us feel excited and full of joy or frightened.

Why does this happen?
When we listen to music our brains produce the chemicals serotonin and dopamine. It’s their combination that influences our emotions. This is why music may make us feel sad, hyped-up, tranquil or angry. Indeed the wide-ranging scope of music may end up blending our emotions in many ways.

Once we realise this connection we can choose the music to reflect our mood.

Indeed it seems that we have a habit of choosing the music based on the moods we are already feeling. We do this deliberately for specific or special occasions. Religious and political gatherings, weddings and funerals, anniversaries and parties, all immediately bring our own favourite music to mind. However if we want to change a negative current mood, choosing music that is more upbeat will lift us out of depression. It therefore becomes important not to choose music which encourages our depression. This link also explains why those dancing at raves become higher and higher. The participants are continually lifted upwards, as the beats and rhythms are constantly boosted.

Music communicates through beat and melody. It is therefore a universal means of communication. This is why we can travel the world and find enjoyment experiencing the musical feeling of another culture. A country’s culture influences their basic formation of music. The most obvious example of this is a comparison Western pop music and Indian Bollywood style tunes. The only really recent cross-over tune was from the film ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ with ‘Jai Ho’ (You Are My Destiny). However the Internet is causing the different styles of music to become integrated. Even the ethics that move composers and musicians are becoming similar as these quotes show:-

One good thing about music is when it hits you, you feel no pain’ – Bob Marley
I love appreciating all kinds of music’ – Taylor Swift
Music is about transporting people, speaking a language which languages fail to express’ – A. R. Rahman.
Music development and its ability to impact on moods relies on new talent so it was interesting to find this quote:-
I bridge the gap between music and life and now my heartbeat swings as sweet as a melody’ – Aloysha Peter.
Now in his twenties, his quote shows empathy with other musicians.

Experiences in our own lives invariably influence our future and Aloysha’s first musical adventures started when singing in a Trivandrum church choir – Kerala. His latest song, which he composed, arranged and produced, is called: ‘Lahari Ee Lahari’ – appropriate English translation – ‘Deliriously Happy’. It features Aju Varghese, a popular actor and comedian and Shann Rahman a music composer and singer. Both are well known for their work in Malayalam cinema. Its enthusiastic fun beat and melody has an infectious feeling which demonstrates how music can uplift our moods. Sometimes just being told about a piece of music may alter our mood. If you hear an artiste’s name it may conjure-up a tune in your mind and suddenly your mood is altered. So choose your music to create, enhance or change your mood because hopefully it may make you deliriously happy. The choice is yours.

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