I took this picture at Philadelphia Folk Festival last Sunday when the band Les Yeux Noirs were warming up because music frees me up and relaxes me at the same time. The theme for the next Scientiae Carnival is Unleashed, so describing the effect music has on me seemed appropriate. But what has this to do with science or me as a scientist?
I am one of those people who has to move to music to the extent it is painful to sit and listen to good music especially bands like Les Yeux Noirs, Davey Spillane, and, naturally, the Mammals. How do people go to folk concerts and sit and listen? Some people seem to barely tap their feet. Dancing is exhilarating and emphasizes the effect of music – a synergistic effect or a positive feedback loop. The more I dance, the better the effect of music. Listening to music also helps me get over illness. Once as a preteen, I was at school feeling ill – the singing lesson was the best thing about that day. I also find that certain music is good when I have period pain or a headache and it can help with anger management – there is nothing like a good loud “London’s Calling” by the Clash to let out frustration. The effect of music is not just hearing it performed but also caused by performing. Whatever mood I am in, after singing practice or choir rehearsal I am relaxed and content.
Music also releases thoughts. Quite often after a good concert, either listening or performed, I think more clearly and have more exciting ideas. Though, if I need to concentrate I cannot have any distractions so music gets turned off.
I am sure that a neuroscientist would have an explanation for this effect of music on the mind – perhaps it causes the release of endorphins or serotonin?