In the previous episodes, we talked about the use of music for human health, happiness and comfort. We discussed the historical roots of music therapy, and how singing and dancing were among the magical rituals of primitive man. We also dealt with music therapy in Greek, Coptic, Roman and Arab civilizations, and we explained the stages of music therapy during the last quarter century. In this episode, we talk about musical responses.
There is no doubt that all living creatures respond to music, even if the degrees of this response vary. This was expressed by the great Arab scholar Al-Farabi, who said, “In the nature of animals and humans, if they are happy, they make a certain vocalization, just as if they are affected by fear, they make another type of vocalization.”
Recent studies were conducted to confirm the same fact. In the studies of Max and Jackson, it was possible to measure the kinetic currents inside the body in response to the emotions of music. These changes are hidden by the clothes, while sometimes these emotions appear in a clear way in the form of banging a leg, a hand, or something else.
Listening to music creates emotions as a result of different responses based on the transmission of nerve signals to the brain, and the response is reflected in a certain way. After numerous experiments, it has been proven that different emotions are complex reactions of the body as a whole, and in particular of the central nervous system.
Music stems from sublime feelings
In this regard, Eduard Hanslick said, “Music stems from sublime feelings, feelings that do not belong to our daily life and the events that permeate it. It creates in our conscience a unique state of feeling or mood that takes our human consciousness away from all the problems that stare into our world of daily or social problems and troubles.”
Meanwhile, a British musician and organist had proven that music elicits different types of responses according to the sounds expressed by the piece of music. Studies and research have followed to determine the types of musical responses.
Physiological response to music
The physiological response to music appears in the form of an external motor reaction, such as hitting the leg or moving the head to the rhythm of the musical piece, or in the form of an internal reaction, and it can be observed by measuring the pulse and blood pressure, for example.
In Gamble and Foster’s experiments, different musicians were able to change the speed and depth of breathing. The experiments of Wilde showed that the music led to an increase in heart activity and a change in the distribution of the amount of blood in the body was noted. There was also a clear irregularity in the speed and depth of breathing. This depends on the change of the influencer and the affected person.
As for the Russian experiments of Mikhail Mogendovic and Vera Polyakova, they demonstrated a decrease in the motor reaction time by 20/100 of a second, and physical functions and memory improved by 100% due to music.
The physiological response is divided into three sections:
Involuntary response: such as changes in the heartbeat or pulse. These are difficult to control.
Semi-involuntary response: such as kicking the legs in an involuntary way while listening to music. However, upon awakening, this movement can be controlled.
Volitional response: can be controlled, such as intended rhythmic movements to accompany a musician. This response is based on muscle movement and is known as kinetic theory. The kinetic theory relies on the existence of our complex muscular system that enables us to receive complex rhythms and respond to them through training.
The Eurhythmic School of the innovator Emile Jacques-Dalcroze confirmed that the rhythmic response, which is part of the physiological response, is useful in two areas: the first is purely physical, to exercise muscles and improve health, and the second expresses the aesthetic value of the soul.
Emotional response to music
If the results of the physiological response have emerged through recent experiments, the emotional response is one of the old discoveries.
Greek philosophers have the first credit for proving that music is an effective means in educating the soul and cultivating one’s character. Plato is considered one of the first pioneers who discovered the emotional impact of music, as he said, “Rhythm and melody penetrate into the depths of the soul and hold it tight.”
The ray of development then passed from the Greeks to those who came after them.
In the Middle Ages, Boethius wrote the book “The Fundamentals of Music”, in which he says in the first lines, “Music is part of our human nature, and it has the ability to improve our character.”
Then Meyer came to say, “The musician can perform emotional and gustatory meanings, in addition to purely abstract mental meanings, and thus can influence the moods of individuals and their other psychological emotions.”
Mood response to music
It is natural that successive emotional experiences derived from music lead to the formation of what can be described as stable moods, rather than temporary sensations and feelings. Emotion is temporary, appearing and disappearing according to the reasons that motivate it, while mood remains relatively constant, which Weld pointed out.
Hefner expressed this response by saying, “It is a state of alertness in which the muscles and all the senses are in a state of alert and movement… they live with every part of the stimulus… where bodily activity and sensory perception respond and interact with it. Realistic meanings and aesthetic experience combine to be integrated in all psychological and physical activities of daily human life.”
Imaginary response to the music
This response appears when the musician sparks the listener’s imagination, especially if it is accompanied by vocal singing that explains its meaning.
Cognitive mental response to music
Here, culture in general, and musical culture in particular, plays a prominent role in triggering this type of response.
The mind, and not the sensations alone, emerges as a key element, exploiting its culture to deepen this response.
Aesthetic response to music
“Beauty is that which can express spiritual truth in a tangible form,” Hegel said.
Richard Wagner added to this concept by saying, “If we want to imagine beauty in its fullest form, it is sufficient for us to listen to beautiful music.”
This response is clearly related to the interaction of imagination with culture. The greater this interaction, the more prominent and clear this response is to the listener.
Uses of music for therapy
Talking about the uses of music for therapy requires knowing the effect of music to choose a specific type that is compatible with the type of organism to be affected or with the special situation of each person.
Not every piece of music is appropriate for every environment or situation. Music that encourages cheers at revolutionary and sporting events is different from that used in churches and from that used in crowded elevators or restaurants. It also differs from that used to treat depression or arterial blood pressure, for example. Therefore, each disease has its own method of music therapy.
In order to clarify these matters, it is necessary to address two important topics. The two types of music and their characteristics, then the different methods of music therapy.
Types of music and their characteristics
Music has multiple qualities, which can be summarized in the following three types: exciting music, calming music, and relaxing (hypnotic) music.
1- Characteristics of exciting music:
- Consists of a major scale.
- Strong. The more powerful it is, the more annoying it will be.
- High Pitch.
- Intermittent and irregular.
- It comes from a hidden or variable source, and the more uncertain the source of the sound, the greater the disturbance.
- Unsuitable for the listener’s activity
- Free from monotony.
- Its ripples are fast.
- It is characterized by diversification of instruments and sounds, i.e. it is exempted by a band.
- It has surprises, such as moving from one place to another.
- The rhythm is clear and strong.
- It gives strength and weight when you hear it.
- Quiet thrills like The Bells of St. Mary’s, by A. Emmett Adams.
2- Characteristics of soft music:
- Consists of a minor scale.
- Soft and calm, i.e. the sounds of nature or similar melodies.
- Medium or low pitch.
- Not intermittent, but continuous (longato).
- It comes from a fixed and specific source.
- Appropriate for the activity of the listener.
- Its melody is predominantly repetitive if it is of the sad type.
- Its ripples are slow, that is, the lines of its musical phrase are wide.
- It is usually excused by one instrument, not an orchestra, and if it exceeds one instrument, then a main instrument will perform almost all the basic melody.
- Its time is slow. Its speed matches the speed of breathing, and in this it benefits the breathing process.
3- Characteristics of relaxing (hypnotic) music:
- Low and quiet.
- Characterized by monotony and regularity, free from surprises and diversification.
- It comes from a fixed and specific source.
- Frequent repetition to the extent of causing the feeling of lack of enthusiasm to the point of boredom.
- It is played by a single instrument or a human voice.
- Some of them are slow.
- Quiet in tone and far from fast.
- Its rhythm is undefined, regular, monotonous, rocking and there is not the slightest variation in the basic rhythm.
- Including Berceuse from Chopin and Nativity Songs.
These are the most prominent characteristics of music and its therapeutic effect. This does not mean that the effect of music is absent if all its elements are not available. It is possible, for example, for sad music to retain its character, if some of its basic elements are available, not necessarily all of these elements.
Because the use of music in the treatment of some psychological, mental and organic diseases has become a universal and indisputable fact, it is necessary that the stability of this fact be linked to the emergence of different methods of music therapy. Each method has its rules derived from the type of condition to be treated.
Multiplicity of methods means recognizing the difficulty or impossibility of applying rigid methods or rules with each case, due to the different and diversification of peoples, individuals, disease states, and the environment.