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Music and the Effect of Self Detachment

Essay by   •  August 21, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  3,234 Words (13 Pages)  •  1,539 Views

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The world's prime issue? Perhaps not, but music and the effect of self detachment is an issue that we must find a solution to. I find myself regularly drawn back to the subject of music and the effect of self detachment. While much has been written on its influence on our current modern living, it is yet to receive recognition for considering the underlying mechanisms of the brain. Music and the effect of self detachment sketches a bass behind the way we express our feelings these days. At the core of the subject are a number of key factors that are causing the detachment. I plan to observe each of these factors in detail and explain their importance.

My friend called me one day while she was driving and told me "listen to this song". As I was listening to the song I figured out the state of emotions that she was trying to explain at that moment. After listening to the song I have asked her "why did you make me listen to the song? Can't you talk to me and tell me how you feel exactly?". She told me that it was easier for her to make me listen to the song, rather than talking out her feelings. In this society at least, it has become easier for us to depend on lyrics to express what we feel. I, myself sing the song "I feel good" whenever I'm happy because somewhere in my brain this song is categorized as a happy song.

Most of the times using a song to express feelings is considered normal, but if we look closely, we will find that this is a considerably serious problem that will have its downsides on the long run. For example, we started using a calculator to do simple calculations and if someone asks "what is 13 + 25", we start looking for a calculator instead of using our brain. We became dependent and stopped using our brain to do many things. This is one reason why I think that we should focus on the problem of music and the effect of self detachment. Other reasons could be: (1) lack of communication (being anti-social), (2) lack of reading (being illiterate), (3) lack of time, and (4) mass media effects.

Our brain is structured into many layers, each layer creates different psychological mechanisms, which will be discussed in the next section, that consists of feelings and emotion. Amazingly, our brain stores everything that we see, hear or feel. Emotions are our reactions to events in our daily social life that could involve cognitive changes, feelings, certain behaviour or actions. When listening to music, the brain stimulates specific emotions depending on how we are reacting at that moment. It has been reported in many studies (Pike 1972) that most listeners experience "feelings" while listening to music. Aristotle claimed in his theory of imitation that we become adapted to feeling certain emotions, and that music helps shape our character; those different emotions can be noticed by their effect on our character.

There are some psychological mechanisms that the brain goes through to stimulate certain emotions when listening to music or sound. The first one is "Brain stem reflex", when the brain signals a vital event and evokes an emotion, due to a loud or sudden sound. For example, the sound of an explosion, a loud car horn, car crash, or even loud music, will increase the tension and concentration of the nervous system:

Sounds that meet certain criteria (e.g., fast, loud, noisy, very low or high-frequenced) will therefore produce an increased activation of the central nervous system (Juslin and Västfjäll 564),

and will stimulate emotions such as increased attention, increased heart rate, or fear.

The second psychological mechanism is "Evaluative conditioning", when a musical piece is repeatedly played, the brain stimulates either positive or negative emotions as a reaction. The same emotions will be evoked every time we hear the same piece:

Regardless of the term used, and of whether positive (e.g., liking) or negative (e.g., fear) states are conditioned, the process appears to have the same characteristics (Juslin and Västfjäll 564).

For instance, a musical piece that is repeatedly played and had always made you happy (e.g., meeting a loved one) will evoke the same feelings every time you hear it regardless of the situation (e.g., meeting a good friend)

The third psychological mechanism is "Emotional contagion", when an emotion is evoked by a musical piece because the listener associated a previous emotional experience and impersonated the same expression:

people exposed to pictures of facial expressions of emotions spontaneously activate the same face muscles (as shown by electromyography) even when the pictures are processed outside of awareness (Juslin and Västfjäll 565).

For example, in your presence, someone showed sad facial expressions while listening to a musical piece. You will imitate the same sad expressions the next time you hear the same musical piece, and your brain will evoke the same sad feelings

The fourth psychological mechanism is "Visual imagery", when an emotion is evoked in a listener because he or she conjures images "Daydream" while listening to music:

Mental images have been regarded as "internal triggers" of emotions (Plutchik 1984) , and studies have revealed that visual imagery associated with different emotions involves different imagery contents (Lyman & Waters 1989) , as well as different patterns of physiological response (Schwartz et al. 1981) (Juslin and Västfjäll 566).

For example, while listening to a relaxing musical piece, you bring up a visual image in your brain (e.g., of a quite beach). This image replaces the scene and emotions associated with the musical piece if there weren't any associated ones already

The last psychological mechanism is "Episodic memory", when the brain evokes specific emotions related to a previous event in the listener's life. For example, the song that was played when you proposed to your loved one. Next time you hear the same song, your brain will evoke the same emotions "This is sometimes referred to as the "Darling, they are playing our tune" phenomenon (Davies 1978) " (Juslin and Västfjäll 567). And as I said previously that our brain stores everything that we encounter in our daily social life. Therefore, every time a memory is evoked, all emotions that are associated with it will be evoked as well.

Being a composer for around 8 years, I have learnt how to put my emotions together to express how I feel. I have found that to be an act of self meditation, which has helped me in many stressful emotional and mental states. From a personal experience, music has helped me shape my identity and increase my productivity. As a listener to music, I have experienced most



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