Thesis: Music and Psychology

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Music and Psychology

The power and importance of music from a psychological and philosophical standpoint has been discussed and explored in many studies and theses. The saying that music has the power to "calm the savage beast" refers to the commonly accepted notion that music can influence the mind and consciousness and has healing and recuperative powers. This has led to the study of musicology and various disciplines that investigate the qualities and nature of music in relation to society, culture and the individual; as well as to psychological, educational and sociological theory in a more modern context

This paper will explore the way that music is seen to be significant in human life and society and the way that it interacts with the mind. The central focus however will be on the psychological as well as psychosocial aspects of musical influence and the way that music can be seen to affect human society and act as a means of healing.

Overview of music - Why is it so universally important?

Music is an endemic aspect of every culture and society in the world. It forms an intrinsic part of the cultural and social patterns of life and is often a pervasive aspect in the life of the ordinary individual. This fact is seen in the 'need' for music and musical expression that is found in all cultures. "This thirst for music is demonstrated in many ways: singing or playing instruments together with family or friends; in most religious and secular festivals and rituals; and in the theatre" (Bunt, 1994, p. 1). While music has a social and cultural aspect it is also highly individualistic. "Our preferences for music are individualistic, relating to our personal and musical histories" (Bunt, 1994, p. 1). In other words, music influences and reflects our lives and personalities and this forms one of the central focuses of a psychology of music.

In this regard, theorist also emphasize the importance of the way that; music links with our innermost emotional, spiritual and most private selves. Music helps us to feel more human. It brings us into very close and immediate contact with the people around us and at the same time connects us both with images from the past and predictions of the immediate future. Without our involvement as either listener or player there would be no music. (Bunt, 1994, p. 1)

This above statement also refers to the way that music tends to 'universalize' or bring people of different culture, nationalities and backgrounds together.

However, it is also true that until very recently the psychological and sociological study of music as an important component affecting society and the individual has been neglected to a great extent.

This situation is ascribed to the general neglect of artistic and aesthetic aspects that impact on modern society in general. (Denora, 2000, p. ix)

This view is worth bearing in mind as it is only fairly recently that disciplines such as music therapy have been advocated in mainstream medical and healthcare treatment. Denora (2000) also mentions that perhaps, sociomusical scholarship's failure to recognize music's powers is due more to the use of inappropriate models for conceptualizing the nature of those powers - too often, music is thought of as a stimulus capable of working independently of its circumstances of production, distribution and consumption."

Denora, 2000, p. ix)

In essence this means that music should be examined in context and in terms of various psychological and sociological facets that impact and affect human beings.

The literature on this topic therefore makes it clear that the importance of music lies in the understanding of its influence and affect on the individual and society. Music in essence is a form of expression and the importance of this type of expression is that it goes beyond ordinary language and allows the communication of more complex emotions to be revealed that are important to the individual and the culture.

3. Music and Society - Music's role in our world and cultures.

For many theorists the importance of music lies in its grounding within the cultural or social matrix. As Schwartz (1997) states, modern musicologists stress "grounding musical-cultural claims both within musical texts and in their historical contexts" (Schwarz, 1997, p. 3).

However, theorists also note that there is a paucity of research in the way that music in fact functions within societies and cultures."... we have very little sense of how music features within social process and next to no data on how real people actually press music into action in particular social spaces and temporal settings" (Denora, 2000, p. x). This obviously points towards more rigorous research into this area.

There is a general consensus that music is extremely important component of primitive as well as modern cultures. A cursory overview to some theoretical views about the social function of music may be useful at this point.

Berger (1995) refers to the concept of 'culturology' (Berger 1995). By this in meant an analysis of society "... devoted to the 'reading' of works or styles so as to 'uncover' or decode their social content." (Denora, 2000, p.1) T.W. Adorno suggested that in terms of this analysis of society that music "... was linked to cognitive habits, modes of consciousness and historical developments. (Denora, 2000, p.1). Adorno refers to the way that music is capable of training and conditioning the unconscious as well as its ability to make us become more 'enlightened'. (Adorno 1973).

This means in effect that music has the power to enable people to share common ideas and values and to conform in society; but it also has the power to make them aware of greater dimensions of life and existence that cannot be experienced normally in society. An example of the way that music facilitates freedom and enlightenment can be seen in an analysis of the music of Arnold Schoenberg. In the view of some theorists Schoenberg's compositions, had the capacity to foster critical consciousness because its materials were organized in ways that countered convention and habit. By avoiding musical cliche, and by preserving dissonance instead of offering musical resolution and gratification, progressive music had the power to challenge perceptual and emotional habit..." (Denora, 2000, p. 1/2).

In other words, music has the potential to make of more cognitively perceptive and to make us aware of the greater possibilities and potential of life. This is one of the reason for the importance of music in a modern world that is often conformist.

Therefore, music allows people to share and participate in a common sense of humanity and understanding. Music is a medium that transcends barriers and cultural and national boundaries and has the capacity to unite people. "Because of its universal character, music is a social activity that promotes togetherness between individuals, cultures and nations. It is sometimes called "the universal language." Music and play could therefore contribute to the building of interpersonal relationships" (Van Der Linde, 1999, p.1)

Furthermore, music also provides for an awareness of other races and cultures; for example, children become aware of the character of other cultures when they are introduced to music form these cultures at an early age.

4. Music and the mind - Exploring the affects of music on the human mind.

There are many psychological effects and influences of music that are discussed in the literature. Some of the most significant of these mention the way that music affects the behavior and temperament of the individual. (Van Der Linde, 1999). This refers basically to the way that emotion, feeling and perception are influenced by music. Theorists also claim that music can have an influence on the moral and ethical outlook of individuals.

Another aspect that is included in the way that music influences the individual in a psychological context is in the area of creativity. This refers to the imaginative and creative modes of thought that are influenced and even engendered by music. More specifically, music has been shown to have an effect on aspects such as sense of proportion and more acute and finer perceptions of the world. (Van Der Linde, 1999).

Music has also been shown to have positive affects on the psyche and on emotional stability and positive responses to life. In this sense, music is considered by many theorists and therapists to be effective in the normalization of aspects such as shyness and aggression in many cases. (Van Der Linde, 1999). This is an aspect that will be dealt with in more detail in the following sections. As one commentary notes, "Mere humming of musical tones may help one overcome loneliness. Music has an ability to inspire and enthuse the listener and performer, thus acting as an important and powerful weapon on his emotional well-being" (MUSIC and PSYCHOLOGY)

It is an often-mentioned fact that the first time humans encounter music is in the womb. This is indicative of the way that sounds and music affect life for a very early age. The 'music 'that the fetus hears is… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Music and Psychology.  (2008, July 19).  Retrieved June 19, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/music-psychology/73249

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https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/music-psychology/73249.