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.
According to the book Music, Brain, and Health, listening to music is highly influential on the brain, but it also has the ability to initiate negative emotions rather than relieving stress. Particularly “dissonant” music activates the amygdala, hippocampus, and parahippocampal gyrus in the brain, inducing fear and anxiety. The quality of music’s effects on the body are entirely dependent on the highly unique way that one receives the specific sound waves. Music could also serve as a negative self-fulfilling prophecy. NBC reported on a Finnish psychological study that investigated the particular purposes we assign to our music library. The researchers claim that humans seek “solace” (understanding in their music,) “diversion” (a distraction from their current emotional state,) or “discharge,” (music that matches their emotional state.) They found that those who chose music that could help them “discharge” energy were typically “anxious and neurotic” people; although this music could have validated their state of mind, it actually only increased their levels of irritation. The study acknowledges the effective coping strategy music provides but warns that indulgence (while still a coping mechanism) can cause more harm than good.
Rejecting the premises