In the 21st century, if we are to name one thing that we cannot live without, it has to inevitably be music. From playing in the background while we are attending the commonest of chores or trying to restore our sanity after an excruciating day at work, music appears to be the only source of solace. However, music is much more than what we perceive it to be; it is essentially known to be the earliest form of communication that man resorted to when he wanted to warn his fellow beings against an impending danger or relate his feelings and everything that lay between the two ends of this spectrum.
For years, scientists have pondered upon the correlation between music (or more specifically songs) and human emotions. According to their delineations, music consistently conveys emotions to their listeners through both its structure and the context in which it is being heard. Apart from this, the subjective evaluation of a song is inescapably influenced by the disposition of the audience. All being said, the interesting part still stands out to be how different people comprehend similar feelings after listening to a common song.
Believe it or not, the notches dealing with music’s impact on the emotions of people at large have been under conjecture for quite some while now. There can possibly be two answers for this; firstly, it is either music that has the upper hand in inducing similar emotions in variable beings or, it is the common feeling that weighs more on the effect and proposition of a song. Keeping everything aside, let us just focus on the purpose of a song a bit and we will be able to uphold how crucial the role of context is.
Here is an example
Let us try to explain this whole arrangement by drawing an instance from a song. All of you must be familiar with Michael Jackson’s all-time favorite, “Heal the World”. Before reaching the actual verse, there happens to be a prelude in unclear and blurred out voices relating the predicament and suffering of the less fortunate children around the world. From this subtle introduction itself, we form an idea of what the rest of the song is going to be and the truth that the following portion indeed calls out people to wake up and make this world a better place for everyone to live in, fulfills our anticipation. The tunes, intricate melodies, breaks, and an almost flat timbre when coupled with the right words inflict the same mood equally in everybody- that is, to sympathize with the heart-wrenching condition of the world and mend our ways to bring about a change.
Therefore, every part of a song is carefully designed as it aims to stimulate the same set of emotions, even if not identical, in everyone. Well, the perspectives can be different but, the basic feelings and reactions can be equated with one another. Like for “heal the world”, some can sense it as an alarm that an artist, who is considered to be the highest watermark of truth and simplicity, is unfolding while the others can be of the opinion that he is simply holding up a picture of the reality and presenting things just the way they are without any alteration whatsoever. Nonetheless, it triggers the feelings of compassion, awakening, agreement, and empathy in both these groups of men and women that we segregated in the previous line. This is where the role of context comes into play- the whole mood, dynamics, references, and lyrics compel one to reach the narrowest corners of his mind and pick out the appropriate feelings to slip into an emotional state that is pre-regulated.
The impact of songs on people without any musical training
If you are still hoping for a few more citations, then let us bring up the relationship shared by children suffering from Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and music. There is enough scientific proof to back up the claim that the ability to perceive music in its most accurate emotional state is replicated across different groups of people with or without any hint of musical training. Such is the case with the patients of ASD; although they find it difficult to precisely react to the commands rendered to them, music is something that they all can accurately identify and respond to in similar manners. It appears that listeners draw a fair amount of cues for perceiving songs from the former’s structure itself. On biological planes, our brains are meant to decode and process the acoustic components of music separately; be it the rhythm, timber, intervals melody or even grouping. This revelation is brilliantly supported by a credible theory known by the name of Gestalt principles of similarity, proximity, and continuity. Man, both consciously and subconsciously, gets used to and consequently learns the structures of a song so that with every time he hears it, his brain directs him to react in a certain way. Now, imagine the set-up where all our brains will follow the identical mechanism after listening to the same song; evidently, everybody will predictably rejoin in the same way with only a few exceptions here and there.
How dynamics of a song alters the mood
When you visit a decently crowded shopping mall during the holiday season, you will notice that the same shops that used to play soft and slow music have filled their playlists with hardcore jazz or rock songs. This is because, when a shop is already attracting a weaker mass than the usual, far from wanting to lose any of its customers to haste, it intends to persuade everyone present in the vicinity to take their own time and browse through the collection to finally settle on one item at least. You will be happy to know that this persuasion is brought about by the music that is playing in the background. The harmony, tone, and pace of the songs played are such that they inspire everyone to catch on the same tempo and build their mood as per its exemplification. All these intriguing facets of songs and music when pooled into one, makes way for the concept defining song dynamics and content transfer.