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Myisha M. McCoy English 1102 Meaghan Rand Inquiry Project How and Why Does Music Affect Emotions?

Turn it up! A little bit of Electronic to get the energy flowing, and the excitement blasting through the roof! Perhaps listening to some soft, sweet Rhythm and Blues would release the yearnings of the heart in relation to love, lack of, or utter inconsistencies. Or maybe the soothing chords produced by the seemingly endless keys of the piano found in Classical music will be the tranquility needed to calm the raging impulses of the spirit. Better yet, blast the Pop and be empowered! If that still does not quite do the trick, no worries. I have the perfect fix! Alternative is the way to go! Let the music take control, flowing through the veins, the heart, and expressing the sometimes conflicting feelings confined within the depths of the mind. Music is a major influential factor in the life of the human species. Music serves as a catalyst and initiator to thought processes as well as actions to be taken, while also serving as a comforting tool in just about any situation. Nearly every person who inhabits planet Earth listens to and indulges in some sort of music, but have we as a species ever taken the time to consider why? Have we ever pondered over musics ability to affect us and what aspects of us it truly affects? Emotions, perhaps?

There is in fact a definite link between the lyrics of a song, and the musicality of a song. These two elements combined are what possess the ability to evoke emotions from listeners. Instrumental composers and lyrical geniuses rely heavily on the emotional appeal of ethos to produce these emotions. Many researchers would easily accept this as truth, the question that is often raised is: How? How does this strategic combination of sounds and words flow through the ears and have such an intense and lasting impact on the brain? One answer is that music contains a great deal of human elements such as expressive speech and bodily movements that are easily interpreted by the auditory system (Changizi). The sounds and words are heard, processed, understood, and applied to the life of the listener almost immediately. Consider the sound of someone crying, or the way in which a smile can be seen even when it is only merely heard. These expressions are so common, distinct, and effortlessly identifiable that by nature we as humans relate and sometimes even mimic them. The accompanying emotions are natural and occur with essentially no systematic thought and without hesitation. Here sparks a second solution, or rather a theory, found within the words without hesitation. If music potentially has the ability to instantaneously bring about emotions, is it safe to say that music also serves as an emotional trigger? Psychiatrist Frank Ochberg discusses that an event could happen in an average persons day and it would not be a cause for concern. Contrarily, that very same event could occur in the day of someone who has gone through a drastic and traumatizing experience in the past and send them back into a deep, dark, pit of misery (Ochberg). I believe that music does in fact work in an identical fashion. A song could be played and resonate emotions from past experiences. The music triggers memories and attached to those memories are the emotions that were felt when the

memory was a just a moment. More often than not these feelings are typically assumed to be sad and depressing. However, is this always the case? Take into account the plethora of varied genres of music; each having its own distinct style, and sound, and each being more commonly associated with a particular set of emotions. Pop songs generally have an upbeat tempo which encourages the listeners to feel lively, and possibly dance! Soft jazz music usually gives one a soothing sense, possessing the qualities of relaxation while also stimulating the mind. Rap and Hip-Hop musicwell those two are entities within themselves and depending upon the artist, the basis for their creation could be positive, negative, or entirely unknown. Some songs may possess elements so unique to a specific group of people that when heard by others the meaning behind the song appears to be nonexistent. Yet again we find ourselves at another question. Do different types of music produce the same emotions from different kinds of people? The age old controversial topic of music being a cross cultural element continues to this day. Before stating my position, let us unpack some key factors to ponder over. In order for music to be thought to have the capacity to cross cultures, we must first accept that there are in fact multiple cultures confined within the world. Where do these different cultures come from? Different cultures existing in various geographic locations are the first to come to mind and the easiest to comprehend as disparate, but has the idea of separate cultures coexisting in the same place been considered? Subcultures form as a result of a particular group of people who carry traits, qualities, or patterns that are distinctive enough to set them apart from societys population (Macionis 80). For example, a person could belong to the preppy subculture, while also belonging to the military brat subculture. Or one could be categorized

as a skater but also be a hipster. In all actuality, it is quite common that an individual would belong to more than one subculture when the many aspects of a given personality are taken into play. Just as one person can belong to multiple subcultures, music can also permeate through those subcultural barriers and affect the people within. It does this by tapping into the dynamics of a personality and reaching different members of the subculture on an individual level, whether that is through the sound elements of music such as a killer beat, or thumping bass, or even the distinct sounds of certain instruments being played, like a guitar solo. Or perhaps, the association could come from different segments of the lyrics, such as one verse or line sticking out among the rest. In whatever fashion the pieces come together, an interaction is certainly made. While there are some types of music that may be entirely culture specific, others do exist can be cross cultural, even with language barriers. Although understanding and relating to the lyrics is important, it is not essential. Sometimes one does not necessarily have to understand the lyrics in order to feel the music. This is proven when a culturally specific event is held and an outsider, or foreigner is in attendance. The intent of the music is observed through the actions of those who truly understand it. Aha, we have again arrived at another question to consider. If the intent of unfamiliar music can be observed, does music encourage and/or establish societal and cultural norms? Take a second to recognize two events that rely on music almost entirely to promote a shared emotion as well as behavior amongst those in attendance. The first event takes place because of overwhelming emotions that most couples feel it absolutely necessary to share with

others. It is an occasion in which love is in the air and two soul mates utter the very short, yet very promising phrase I do. A wedding not only signifies an everlasting bond built on the basis of love and eternal happiness, it also serves as a visible mechanism and tangible sphere of hope. While the attention is on the bride and groom during the ceremony, it drastically shifts during the reception. Line dances are played to lower the degree of awkwardness and encourage strangers to be themselves, while more intimate songs are played in hopes that two strangers would possibly become friends, or even something more. All of the people present know exactly what to do when these songs come on, and those who do not are very quick to pick up on the flow of things. The second event takes place solely to assist in the development of interpersonal relationships among youth, with of course a bit of fun added into the mix. Any ideas as to what it could be? How about a school formal? It is a dance orchestrated by the faculty of school, along with the possible help of small student committees, in which students dress to impress the crushes that they may be too self-conscious to approach on an average day. The music is the driving factor in promoting connections between students in a scenario such as this. Funky music is played to sort of break the ice and get everyone in a happy spirit. As the night progresses the DJ will put on a slow tune to give the many shy and timid students and opportunity to slow dance with the person who consumes their mind. The minute moments of intimacy are expected, and these actions are deemed socially acceptable (Hargreaves and North). All of this stems from the music! The music brought the people together, and helped create these moments that will be treasured for part of a lifetime or the entirety of it.

The relationship between people and music is most definitely a symbiotic relationship. Our emotional experience depends on our perception of the situation (Morris and Maisto 282). Applying this quote to music, we can say that how we perceive a song, and in what ways we relate to it will determine the emotions that are evoked. Human elements, the emergence of memories that resonate past feelings, the bonds that form as a result of the encouraged behavior are all factors that depict how emotions are affected by music. Emotions, no matter the degree, motivate and us to take some form of action (Morris and Maisto 259). People are inspired by some force, whether it is an action, event, or sight, to create music and the music that it is created influences the people that listen to it, and the cycle continues. It is clear to see how much of an influence music has on emotions, which in turn affects daily life functions. People need music not only to help them individually, but also to be able to relate and associate with others. Music acts sort of as a form of glue. It is an element that has the potential to bring varied groups of people together on an emotional, psychological, and even physical level. As music crosses those cultural boundaries that were previously mentioned, it promotes the convergence of the people within them. Music may very well be the initial element that opens the door to a world of similarities between the groups of people. Similarities may come in terms of food preferences, extracurricular activities, sports, or even ideas and before it is realized, new friends have been acquired. As music evolves over time, so do the people and so do the relationships formed by the people. No matter the situation, positive or negative, music can be used to express the emotions within that one may not have the ability to formulate into words.

I believe that people turn to music as a form of reassurance. Often times when people think of the word reassurance, they think about it in a way that suggests low self-esteem, or minimal levels of confidence, either in particular areas or in general. However, I want to introduce the word reassurance in a different light, a light that not only sparks hope into a day, but a light that encompasses happiness into a lifetime. Reassurance is a tool that gets even the best of us through the worst of days; it provides a level of acceptance to those who feel as though they have been socially excluded. This reassurance promotes social solidarity, and engulfs the heart with never-ending activity. Music is reassurance. So given the day, the events of that day, and people present within or absent from that day, what type of reassurance is needed? Or better yet, what type of music if preferred? I caution a careful selection, for its affects could be substantial.

Works Cited Hargreaves, David, and Adrian North. "The Functions of Music in Everyday Life: Redefining the Social in Music Psychology." Psychology of Music. 27.1 (1999): 71-83. University of North Carolina at Charlotte: J. Murray Atkins Database. Web. 11 March 2014. Changizi, Mark. "Why Does Music Make Us Feel?" Scientific American Global RSS. Scientific America, 15 Sept. 2009. Web. 12 Mar. 2014. Magazine Article. Morris, Charles G, and Maisto, Albert A. Understanding Psychology: Second Custom Edition for the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Boston: Pearson, 2013. Print. Macionis, John J. Sociology: Fifteenth Edition. New Jersey: Pearson, 2014. Print. Ochberg, Dr. Frank. "What Are Emotional Triggers and How Can We Manage Them?" YouTube. YouTube, 12 July 2013. Web. 16 Mar. 2014.