The Sociological Effects of Music on Human Expression
Although sound and music are biologically heard and received by the ear in the same way; the vibration of waves at varying frequencies and their reception by the ear canal (http://www.brainconnection.com, How We Hear, 28/10/02) they affect our consciousness in very different ways. Sound, by definition is: “mere noise, without meaning or sense or distinguished by sense…to resound…to be audible”. (Chambers 20th Century Dictionary, p1291). Another interpretation of this may be that is it the raw material that speech, music and song are made of - the building blocks of communication. One definition of music is: “The art of expression in sound, in melody, in harmony, including both composition and execution…not mere noise”. (Chambers 20th Century Dictionary, p869). The essential aspects of music are pitch, melody, rhythm and volume. All of these play an important role in the result of a piece of music, and each can vary in their effect on the listener. Arguably, rhythm has the most dramatic effect on the human nervous system. Scientists have suggested a variety of reasons for why this may be, and almost all agree that it is connected to the heartbeat and to the cyclic functions of the body. Rhythm can also be a learning and remembering technique for individual sounds and an accessible way to connect one piece of information to another. In our modern world it is not just dancers, musicians and artists whose actions are influenced by music and sound. Music is universally understood to often be the sum of more than its parts, and causes emotional and physical reactions from simply being heard. It is used in many aspects of society to persuade, to advertise, to heighten emotional tension, to increase learning skills, to identify social groups and to influence speed and muscle tension, for a few examples. The effects of music can be conscious, subconscious and unconscious. The power of music, over any other art form, to penetrate people’s emotions is a widely recognised fact. ‘Music listening… seems to encourage the release of endorphins, which in turn illicit emotional response’ (http://www.thepowerofmusic.co.uk, Neurological aspects of musical processing, accessed 23/10/02). Scientific studies that have investigated this theory came to conclusion that ‘Both hemispheres of the brain are involved because of the complexity of musical experiences which may involve auditory, visual, cognitive, affective and motor systems’ (http://www.thepowerofmusic.co.uk, Neurological aspects of musical processing, accessed 23/10/02). Of the five senses, hearing connects us to the outside world more peripherally than any other sense and plays a large role in balance and directional shifts. Despite a general tendency in society to consciously rely on visual stimuli for information and also entertainment, a lot of information received and understood is either provided or enhanced by sound. This is a very predominant feature in television and film, and also in dance & theatre performance. In television, one of the predominant and psychologically effective uses of music and sound is in advertising, yet this use of music often tries not to call attention upon itself as a separate entity. An advert is often a series of seemingly unrelated pictures. These pictures usually place the product in a more glamorous or exciting setting than it would probably be found, so an auditory explanation is usually needed to explain the actual function of the product. In addition to this, the huge range of remarkably similar products in many areas of the consumer market means that advertising companies need to ‘portray a particular style or image which elicits strong consumer allegiances’ (David Huron, http://www.music-cog.ohio-state.edu/Huron/ Publications/huron.advertising.text.html, Music in Advertising: An Analytic Paradigm, 17/12/02). Social class, age and environment often influence the type of music...
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