REACTIONS TO SOUND AND MUSIC
The French professor Emanuel Brigand (Universitè de Bourgogne) has done experiments in which he is exposing persons to music. We do not need much,- one note or chord may be enough. He has played short fragments of a piece of music, down to a tenth of a second duration, for his test objects. The persons were, in spite of that, capable of recognizing music and moods. This observation is supported my Professor emeritus in psychology Alf Gabrielsson at the University of Uppsala. He collected stories of the strongest musical moments of thousand persons from 13 to 91 years of age. Most of these experiences are attatched to living music,- the good live-experiences. What kind of music is of less importance.
The most common reactions are joy, happiness a feeling of being totally engulfed,- to lose the sensation of time and space,- to lose control, being surprised, touched and overwhelmed. And- a fraction of a second exposure may be enough!
Explanations may be found in the Handbook of Music and Emotion that was published by Oxford University Press last year.
Why does this happen? The music psychologists Patrik Juslin at University of Uppsala and Daniel Västerfjäll at the University of Göteborg have collected and interpreted research results within music psychology, neuroscience, anthropology, psychology of recall, psychology of emotions and biology. All this completed by own studies.
Juslin explains some of their findings in The German journal Die Zeit and the Swedish magazine Forskning och Framsteg.:
Music, especially the rhythm, reaches the brain stem, the oldest element of our processes of thought, often called the reptile brain. It reacts on tones without engaging the consciousness, just like we stop and startle when we hear a Bang! It makes our pulse increase when we hear fast and treble notes, while slow rhythms and bass notes have a relaxing and calming effect. The researchers claim that these emotions/feelings emerge already while in the mothers womb. The brainstem reacts to changes. These are very fast reflexes in the central nervous system. So-called episodical remembrance seems to play the most important role in this context. Music is associated with the situation when we heard it for the first time, or we connect it with special episodes.
One example is the well-known oh dear, they are playing our song which we connect with the moment sparks flew between a pair that once were in love. (And maybe still are?)
According to the researchers, we start creating such memories already at 3 4 years of age. But the most and strongest memories seem to originate from the adolescent years or from early adulthood (15 25 years of age). In this period appear most of the situations that mold our identity and our taste of music.
Music creates more than memories. It invites to associations and starts the fantasy flying out, usually within a cultural frame. Of all factors that contribute to our emotional reactions to music, only the immediate reaction in the brain-stem is dissociated from cultural influence, according to the scientists. Everything else is a result of cultural influence and our own personal experiences.
Sources: Die Zreit, Forskning & Framsteg, Behavioural and Brain Sciences.