Music and Stress

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Music has been used to treat health problems as early as the beginning of time. Only since the beginning of the 20th century music has been used to treat different psychological problems. The official term of music therapy was given during World War II for soldiers who experienced shocked after battle. Not much longer, in 1971 the American Association for Music Therapy was formed. One of the many uses for music therapy is stress management. Throughout the course of a day people experience many stressors, school, work and family, just to name a few. Music has a unique ability to lower levels of anxiety and tension when listened to under the proper conditions. There are many correlations between the types of music listened to and the amount of decreased stress.

To explain how some music lowers levels of stress and others don’t, one should know how sound is processed through the brain. The auditory system controls how people physiological and behavioral react to sound. Sound moves from the inner ear to the auditory cortex directly. Then sound moves to the temporal lobes where it is consciously perceived. Depending on the type of music will determine the response. As said by Westman, “The arousal level of the central nervous system depends upon the intensity, complexity, variability, predictability and meaning of sound stimuli. The auditory system responds most to changes in timing of sound stimuli” (Westman 293). Different rhythms and other musical characteristics will determine how one reacts to the given piece. When conducting a study Krusmhansl played three pieces, each picked to represent the emotions of sadness, fear, and happiness for a group of people. As he said “The sad excerpt had slow tempos, minor harmonies, and fairly constant ranges of pitch and dynamics. The fear excerpt had rapid tempos, dissonant harmonies, and large variations of dynamics and pitch. The happy excerpts had rapid tempos, dancelike rhythms, major harmonies and constant range of...
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