MusicEd
 








        
 


9. Information is received from the cortex but more slowly, which explains those rapid, sometimes embarrassing reactions to music such as tears on hearing children singing (not to be confused with a music teacher's sometimes anguished response to what she is hearing!) or driving faster when exciting, or aggressive music is heard on the car radio. Thus cortical pathways take longer to react to incoming information but provide a more complete cognitive assessment of the situation. In musical terms, they invoke memories associated with the music being heard. While these may also influence our emotional responses to music, because we are consciously aware of them, our responses are more likely to be within our control. Sue Hallam also refers to research which suggests that the limbic system ("The Centre of Emotions") contains a large number of opoid receptors which are highly susceptible to the presence of chemicals like endorphins (which blunt the feeling of pain). In some circumstances, music listening seems to encourage the release of endorphins which in turn elicit emotional responses. Further evidence of the significance of the role of endorphins, and of the power of music, comes from recent UK research involving children with emotional and behavioural problems. Thus Anne Savan has found that when Mozart was played during science lessons, children, whose behaviour was normally very disruptive, demonstrated improved concentration. Pulse rate, blood pressure and temperature reduced significantly, because the music increased the production of endorphins lowering blood pressure, which led to a reduction in corticosteroids and adrenalin slowing the body's metabolism and improving co-ordination. It is good to have this more persuasive evidence of a beneficial "Mozart Effect" than the unhelpfully exaggerated claims made for the 1997 North American research of Rauscher et al. (nb relevance to KS 4 Double Science "Life processes and living things" - nervous system; the pathway taken by impulses in response to a variety of stimuli)

   
 
   
10. Research findings sometimes seem to state what to non-scientists such as this author is the obvious (the point, of course, is that in genuine research "the obvious" is evidence based). Thus in medicine, the interactions between mind and body are now recognised as important, indeed scientists suggest that what goes on in the conscious mind affects the body. Fortunately, for those of us who value mystery, research exploring the way music is processed by the brain suggests that there is no easy way of predicting the effects of music on an individual's behaviour. So our conscious responses, which partly mediate our emotional responses, are unique. Yet, as a species, we share many quasi-autonomous responses to sound. For example, "Dido's Lament" (from the semi-eponymous Purcell opera) speaks in a very direct way to many people who do not necessarily share the same social group, age, gender or race. On the other hand, other "emotional" pieces appear to owe almost everything to age, time, place and shared memories: Vera Lynn's "The White Cliffs of Dover" is a good example.

11. In section 5 of her article, under the headings 'Physiological functioning', 'Motor effects', 'Mood, arousal and emotion', 'Behaviour' and 'Intellectual stimulation', Sue Hallam discusses overall trends in the effects of music on individuals. Some of the findings and inferences referred to are controversial. This section also includes one of the rare references to dance.