Music as a social glue

community

Music has the quality of drawing people together in a shared experience. In the past, music is a group activity used in ceremonies, warfares and rituals to connect people and serve communal purposes. People come together to make music. This is still found in many indigenous cultures today. Listening to music passively through audio systems and concerts developed much later in modern societies.

“A culturally agreed-upon pattern of rhythm and melody, ie, a song that is sung together provides a shared form of emotion that, at least during the course of the song, carries along the participants so that they experience their bodies responding emotionally in very similar ways”. (Storr 1992)

In addition to this shared framework of emotions, music also structures the experience of time in people. Storr wrote that “music structures time. By imposing order, music ensures that the emotions aroused by a particular event peak at the same moment”. (Storr 1992). A live symphony brings the audience into the same breathing and rhythm. The audience has been aligned by the music as one and starts to breathe together like an organism. This shared time experience was also written by Storr as follows:

“Music brings about similar physical responses in different people at the same time. This is why it is able to draw groups of people together and create a sense of unity”. (Storr 1992)

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How does music affect our immunity?

immune-system

Clinical psychologist and music therapist Mark Rider, Ph.D did a study on 12 hour shift-working nurses constantly under high levels of stress and found the following:

“Rider tested urine for levels of corticosteroids, hormones secreted by our adrenal glands when our bodies are engaged in the fight-or-flight stress response. He also took body temperatures to assess the degree to which their bodies retained proper circadian (day/night) rhythms- one indicator of body-mind homeostasis. When the nurses listened to tapes of soothing music and practiced relaxation and guided imagery, their rhythms were appropriately balanced and their levels of urinary stress hormones were reduced”. (Gaynor 2002)

Rider attribute the findings to the neurotransmitters and neuropeptides in the body. “it may be-calm the mind and therefore the body; or it may have emotional effects, which influence neurotransmitters and neuropeptides, which in turn help to regulate the immune system- the healer within”. (Gaynor 2002)

Mona Lisa Chanda and Daniel Levitin asserted that engaging in musical experiences has an impact on health through four major neurochemical pathways:

  1. Music results in pleasure, reward, and motivation, as documented by the release of dopamine and various opioids, or peptides, that are endogenously produced in the body.
  2. Music affects stress and arousal through demonstrated changes in stress hormones, like cortisol, adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), and corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH).
  3. Participation in musical activities initiates release of serotonin and neuropeptides, including beta-endorphins and alpha-melanocyte stimulating hormones that work on the immune system.
  4. Changes in oxytocin as a function of music reveal a sense of belonging and social affiliation.

(Hanser 2016)

In a study done by Rider, it has been found that music when used with guided imagery reduced stress hormones and raised the level of disease-fighting immune cells. In this study:

“a group of university students was lectured on the secretion of antibodies. They were then instructed to imagine antibody production while listening to live improvised music, which, they were told, would facilitate their imagery. A second group listened to the same music without any other instructions, while a third group sat in silence. At the end of the session, the production of sIgA (secretory immunoglobulin A) antibodies was tested through collection of saliva and measurement of skin temperature. Rider found that slgA production was significantly higher in the imagery/ music group than in either of the other groups”. (Gaynor 2002)

In a study done by Michigan State University in 1993, it was found that “levels of interleukin-1 (an immune-cell messenger molecule that helps to regulate the activity of other immune cells) increased by 12.5 to 14 percent when subjects listened to music for fifteen-minute periods”. (Gaynor 2002)

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