Monday, July 2, 2012

How Does Music Affect Us?

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”  Ephesians4:29 (NIV)

     For many people, music is a big part of their normal life.  I know it’s a big part of mine.  I listen to my iPod and my CD’s quite a bit, and even when I’m not, I almost always have a song stuck in my head.  But just how much does music affect us?  Is it helpful, or is it harmful?  Does it even affect us at all?
     Well, to start with, listening to certain types of music, such as classical and baroque, can cause one’s body to relax and helps to decrease blood pressure.  Other types of music, though, have the possibility of increasing the heart rate and blood pressure.
     In addition to affecting the body, classical music can also help one’s studies by relaxing the brain, which in turn makes it easier to remember things.  Take Albert Einstein for example.  Many people think of him as one of the greatest masterminds ever to walk this earth, but very few realize that as a boy, he didn’t do well in school.  One of his teachers even suggested that his parents pull him from school and get him a job that wouldn’t require much education so that they wouldn’t waste their money by sending the ‘stupid boy’ to school.  Luckily for him though, his parents paid no attention to the teachers and instead bought him a violin to help with his lessons.  As strange as that may seem, it was the key to enriching young Albert’s studies.  Even Einstein himself attested to the fact that it was the violin that assisted him in making improvements in his school.   In fact, he improved so much that he is now considered to be one of the smartest men in history.
     Another example of how music affects one’s studies would be a class taught by Dr. George Lozanov, a Bulgarian psychologist, who designed an improved way of teaching foreign languages. In his class, he played certain baroque pieces in the background while his students studied.  By doing this, he proved that it was possible to learn a language in about a month with approximately 85% to 100% efficiency.  By using his system, his students were able to learn close to half of the words and phrases for a school term in one day, with an average retention rate of 92%.  That’s almost 1,000 words memorized near perfectly!  In addition to that, after four years of not studying at all, his students were able to recall nearly 100% of what he had taught them!
     Keep in mind though, that listening to music doesn’t guarantee recall, but, as noted above, it definitely helps.  In fact, the ability to recall information is even better if you are listening to the same music when you are recalling as when you were learning.  The music in and of its self isn’t a necessary part of the learning process, so one would be wise not to rely on it completely, simply because it has been known to work in other instances.*
     The previous examples show some of the positive aspects of music, but it is unfortunate that not all music is helpful.  (Please note that in the following examples, I’m generalizing.  I don’t believe that all rock music is bad.)  Many people tend think that rock music is harmful to humans, and a lot of the time, they are correct.  Not only do the lyrics often encourage drugs, alcohol, suicide, and other issues, but the songs themselves normally contain irregular beats and shrill frequencies that are harmful to the body.  For example, back in the 70’s, teenagers would bring raw eggs to rock concerts and set them on the edge of the stage.  By the end of the concert, their eggs would be hard boiled and ready to be eaten.  Even though that may not be the same effect that rock music has on our bodies, who wants to listen to songs that have the ability to hard boil eggs?  Not to mention the volume at which some people listen to heavy metal, rap, and rock music!  That can also be a harmful ‘side effect’ to listening to that kind of music.
     It is also thought that there might be a bit of a connection between listening to certain types of music, such as heavy metal and rap, and thoughts of suicide, poor schoolwork, and drug use, though it may simply be that those certain types of people are drawn to that sort of music, because there is no evidence proving that rock music is the reason for such behavior.**
     Some of you are probably wondering what in the world the verse at the top of the page has to do with the title of this article.  We typically associate Ephesians 4:29 with our speech–the things we say, how we say them, etc.–and unless we’re singing, what does that have to do with the music we listen to?  Well, looking at the last half of the verse (…but only what is helpful for building others up, according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.) we can see that the things we listen to are supposed to be good things, things that benefit us, and build us up.  Sometimes that refers to the lyrics in a song, other times, it refers to the things that can actually be beneficial or harmful.  So while much of this is just speculation, it definitely provides something to think about when it comes to choosing the music you listen to, what music you listen to at what times, and how you listen to it.

     The Comma Queen



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