Posted by: D.A.S. Chicago | March 5, 2011

Music, Stress and the Performing Arts

The science is in; experts say that music has a profound effect on our body and is extremely useful as a relaxation and as an unwinding tool. Did you know recent studies have shown that brainwave activity can be altered in therapeutic ways that have a wide range of applications? It has been known that listening to music of any kind improves the physical state of the body. Now think about how music is used in the world of performing arts. It’s everywhere. Music is central to the worlds of dance and theater. It’s used in just about every form of entertainment.

Have you ever needed to relax after a long day at class and the first thing you do upon arriving home is put on some of your favorite music? Of course you have and there’s a reason for this; our bodies know, even if we’re unaware, that music is an effective tool for relaxation. Notice how your mood changes or body responds to music once you put it on, naturally making you feel more relaxed. Studies done by The University of Buffalo showed that listening to music had a positive impact on eye surgery patients. In the study 40 patients were split into two groups. One group listened to music of there choice during surgery as well as after while recovering. The other group didn’t listen to any music but was treated in the usual manner. The results showed that, across the board, the group that listened to music had lower blood pressure and indicated that they experienced less stress and anxiety as a result of the surgery. One interesting point was that on the morning of the surgery all of the patients experienced elevated levels of blood pressure and heart rate. The music group was then allowed to listen to music and within ten minutes their blood pressure returned to normal and stayed there for an extended period of time. To me this suggests that the positive power of music is so strong that it can and should be used in hospitals everywhere.

Other studies have looked into the effects on binaural beats. A binaural beat is a low frequency tone generated by two different tones that are slightly out of phase. Did you get all that? Well if not don’t sweat, binaural tones in their pure form basically sound like weird droning over static. Studies have shown that they directly influence our brainwaves. Through manipulating these tones scientists can control the hormone glands and endorphin levels of test subjects. Binaural beats have been used to simulate runners high, relax the mind and even increase learning potential. Hospitals are using binaural therapies on cancer patients. Therapists use them with patients effected by ADD and as a way to reduce stress and calm the mind. So what do these weird tones have to do with music? That’s where they were first discovered and are most common in our world. Back in the day I took saxophone lessons with an old jazz dude in his eighties. He told me stories about ‘ghost notes’ that appear on rare occasions during performances when two players are slightly out of tune. Legend is that when this happens the ghost of an old jazz musician is jamming with them. Classical composers incorporated them into their compositions. Modern live music is filled with random tones created on accident. While the effects of these tones are generally uncontrolled it’s widely believed that they only have positive effects on us.

Have you ever seen someone dance to a total absence of music? I have. That man was Conan O’brien. Check it out…

Would you ever do that in front of other people? Hell no. You would make a fool of yourself like Conan did. Almost all dance is based around music. From traditional drum based music played on animal skins to today’s modern electronic sounds, music and dancing go hand in hand. They move to the same beat and the creative process for each is reflective of the other. Now think about how theater, operas, musicals and many plays are all accompanied by music. You could say that music is central to them. Dancing, acting and music all have positive impacts on our state of mind and our ability to relax. So next time you’re feeling stressed, turn to music. Dance in your living room or belt out the lines to your favorite song while you’re in your car. I guarantee you’ll feel better in no time.



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