©Arlene R. Taylor PhD
According to Plato, the kind of music to which humans are exposed to during growing-up years determines the balance of their souls. Aristotle evidently agreed saying, “If one listens to the wrong kind of music he will become the wrong kind of person; but conversely, if he listens to the right kind of music he will tend to become the right kind of person.”
If specific types of music have a beneficial effect to the mind and body, it stands to reason that effects from other types of music may be less desirable. There are many positive aspects to music and huge benefits that can accrue from its study. That’s the good news. On the bad news side, studies have shown that some types of music can result in deleterious effects to the mind and body.
Sound vibrations acting upon and through the nervous system give shocks in rhythmical sequence to the muscles, which cause them to contract and set arms and hands, legs and feet in motion. On account of their automatic muscular reaction, many people make some movement when hearing music; for them to remain motionless would require conscious muscular restraint.
Carol Torres reports that an artificial neurosis can ensue from consistent exposure to deleterious music, which can influence the autonomic nervous system and disregulate some of the body’s rhythms. One research project, conducted by a neurologist and a physicist, divided 36 mice into 3 groups (A, B, and C) and subjected them to music as follows:
• Group A = no music (control group)
• Group B = harmonic music that followed the natural laws of music
• Group C = disharmonic music that did not follow the natural laws of music
The decibel levels of music played for Groups B and C were the same, and all three groups had identical laboratory conditions except for the music differences. At the end of two months, the study was concluded and the brains from four mice in each group were dissected. Researchers found that the neurons (brain thinking cells) of mice in Group C were damaged and tangled; the neurons of mice in groups A and B were normal.
The remaining 24 mice were then trained in a maze situation for three weeks. Then they were given three weeks rest, after which they were returned to the maze to see if they could recall how to run the maze. The mice from groups A and B scored equally well in memory retention; they could recall how to run the maze. The mice from group C could not recall how to run the maze. In addition, they exhibited hyperactive, aggressive, and even cannibalistic behaviors.
A study reported by the Scripps Howard News Service found that exposure to rock music causes abnormal neuron structures in the region of the brain associated with learning and memory. Exposure to hard rock / acid rock music, regardless of gender, has been shown to inhibit the ability of some people’s brains to store the studied information correctly in the brain. Rock music was found to increase adrenalin levels in a group of students, while a slow piano instrumental had a calming effect.
In his book, Closing of the American Mind, University of Chicago Professor Allan Bloom (in the chapter on music) includes observations based on 30 years of working with students. He says that classical music is essentially harmonic as compared with rock music that is rhythmic. Harmonic music appeals more to the mind and makes its listeners more contemplative. Rhythmic music appeals more to the emotions and makes its listeners more passionate. Bloom indicates that the effect on the brain of prolonged exposure to electrical amplification of rhythmic music is similar to that of drugs.
Joseph Crow, professor at the University of Seattle, reportedly conducted a research project on the impact of rock music on the human mind. He concluded that rock, a form of music based on mathematical formulae, could condition the mind through calculated frequencies (vibrations). It is able to modify the body chemistry and make the mind susceptible to modification and indoctrination.