The influence of music

What is music?

There are various definitions of music. Eastern and Western musical traditions are very different from one another, and it is hard to define a genre like jazz with the same meaning as, say, military music. That said, most musicologists accept that there are three essential aspects to music. These are rhythm, pitch, and harmony. On top of this, you could easily add other common elements such as timbre, the way a particular sound is perceived. To some people, music also has a visual element, and you can literally dance rather than simply move to its sound. From ancient times, both voices and musical instruments have been used to produce music and, these days, it is a folk art form as well as being a multi-billion dollar global industry.

 How do music and mathematics relate?

Some psychologists explain humans' interest in music with reference to our pattern-finding and puzzle-solving nature. When you hear a certain harmony, there is a mathematical relationship behind it which may sound appealing because of the way it makes our brains react. The various musical scales are usually explained with a mathematical relationship between one note and the next. Furthermore, rhythmic patterns can generally be expressed mathematically, too. The more complex the musical work is, the more complicated the maths you would need to explain it.

Can music help you sleep?

If you listen to music actively, then your brain will be engaged, which means it is unlikely that you will be able to drop off. That said, various studies have shown that music is a good way of relaxing prior to sleep. If you chill out with some slow tempos and downbeat sounds for around 45 minutes before going to bed, then your parasympathetic nervous system will go into a state that is much more prepared for slumber.

How does music affect the brain?

As mentioned, the part of the brain that looks for patterns can be stimulated by harmony, pitch, and rhythm. In addition, people who listen to songs tend to reach a more attentive state as their brains become more active. In science, the way in which such brain activity is studied is known as neuro-musicology. Some people think that listening to great works of classical composers, such as Mozart, during pregnancy can help the brain development of unborn children. Although such a theory might be hard to prove, anecdotal evidence points towards this even if it simply imprints certain cultural norms. Overall, musicians tend to have superior working memory and a more symmetrical brain functionality than the general population.

Why is music good for mental health?

Because music is emotive, it can affect our sense of ourselves. Musical pieces have the uncanny ability to tap into our emotional state and to shift it. Some people with anxiety or depression can get a direct lift in their mental well-being by simply listening to, or playing, upbeat music. Some contemplative pieces can shift us into more melancholic moods, too, of course.

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