MusicEd
 







        
 


7. Sue Hallam concludes that "(while) there is little hard evidence regarding the extent to which music directly influences self-directed behaviour, we do know that music can influence our moods and some aspects of our behaviour in ways which may be outside our conscious awareness." She then embarks on a fascinating summary of the neurological aspects of musical processing. Thus music can be experienced physiologically (eg changes in heart rate); through movement; through mood and emotion; and cognitively (through knowledge and memories). The fact that music is processed in many ways and has physical, emotional and cognitive effects may, in Sue Hallam's view, be the key to its power. While animals can perceive differences in sound and some can perceive differences between composers and styles of music, they are unable to retain the shape of melodies and others of the holistic aspects of music. Nevertheless, they do respond to music, indeed recent research has demonstrated that cows are more eager to gather in the milking shed when music is playing. And even more recent research seems to prove that the milk yield of cows is also increased when 'calming' music is played in the milking parlour.

   
 
   
8. Sue Hallam infers from those findings "that some fairly primitive brain mechanisms are involved in at least some of our responses to music". Not unconnected to that conclusion is the way that different musical skills can operate independently: this is illustrated by the way that we can know and recognise a piece of music which we hear but may be unable to retrieve information about its title or composer even though we know that we have that knowledge. Apparently, there has been less research in relation to the neurobiology of emotion. The latest theories have it that our emotional responses to music are controlled by the amygdala (which has close connections with the hypothalamus, the part of the brain which instigates emotional behaviour and ensures that we can react quickly when our life is at risk). The amygdala evaluates sensory input for its emotional meaning, receiving sensory information directly and quickly from the thalamus, a relay station for incoming information, before it has been processed by the conscious thinking part of the brain, the cortex.