There is debate over whether or not our globe should attempt to find new normalcy in this chaotic year of 2020. Rather than seeking an external structure of routine however, it seems most helpful to take this moment to search within ourselves for that which we humans do best and do naturally. According to Harvard Medical School, humans’ inherent musicality is not debatable.
The cochlea within our ears makes the distinction between “noise” and “music,” with an innate ability to detect rhythm and melody. Music that our ears find pleasurable has a similar effect on our serotonin levels to alcohol and chocolate. In fact, musicality is so intrinsic to our being that brain damage tends to lead to “amusia,” or the inability to detect musical tonality.
While there is little evidence proving music’s ability to actually enhance cognition, there is plenty of research to suggest that music acts as an “exercise” for memory and reasoning.
Music is also both healing and anxiety-reducing. According to the book Music, Health, and Wellbeing, music acts as a reward to our brains when we enjoy it and has been proven to relieve pain and therefore significantly decrease the need for painkillers.
Patients who had just suffered heart attacks were asked to listen to music for twenty minutes while researchers monitored their health. Universally, the patients’ heart and breathing rates slowed, and this effect lasted for an hour after the music had stopped.
The healing power of music is working on a cellular level. Although there is certainly more research to be done, a revolutionary 2013 study confirmed that music affects us quite physically. Sound waves alter the “fluid pressure” in our ears and demonstrate a significant ability to affect the “size and granularity” of a cancer cell.
If music can touch the human body this intimately and powerfully, a historical moment of strife seems to call for its healing influence.