How Music Heightens Our Experiences
There’s a whimsical, charming scene in Begin Again, starring Keira Knightly, Mark Ruffalo and Adam Levine, that showcases two of the characters strolling through the streets of New York City, bonding through music. The gold and silver lights of Times Square shimmer in the dark, and earbuds are plugged in as they absorb favorite songs and guilty pleasures off their playlists.
These snapshots were not only a beautiful love letter and ode to the city, but they paid homage to the power of music as well. Music was a vibrant color to a blank canvas; music lit up the night and made it sparkle; music smacked them awake.
Music has the capacity to heighten our daily experiences — to alter our emotional states, to enhance, transcend and inspire the present moment.
It’s certainly not a revelation that music affects our mood. A particular melody or lyrical narrative may trigger sadness, heartache, anger or other unpleasant emotions. (And I don’t like to run away from them; all emotions comprise the human experience.)
Joe Wilner’s post, How Music Can Improve Your Mood, discusses how music can elevate our mental state, too, paving the way for a positive and peaceful frame of mind.
Wilner, a life-transition coach and psychologist, writes that music can revive happy memories. “We all have songs that can really brighten our day and remind us of proud and significant moments of our life.”
He also suggests that music can cultivate a sense of love and affection since it’s played at numerous celebrations that unite people.
A post on Imagine Out Loud explains that music creates shifts in our brain wave patterns, resulting in various states of awareness.
Classical music can improve perception, memory and concentration, while rock can spark passion, stimulate activity and ignite tension within the body. Romantic pieces may accentuate feelings of sympathy, compassion and love.
In addition, Wilner conveys that music arouses the nervous system and can inspire new experiences and productivity. “Music can be revitalizing and get us to take action, keep us alert, and maintain a cheerful attitude.” Play Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in The Dark” — a “get up and go” track; you’ll gauge the resiliency in his words and sounds and will want to adopt that mentally for yourself.
I asked friends about the effects of music on their daily lives. “When I play or listen to music, nothing else matters,” one musician said. “It kinda takes me to my own little place, where the hard facts of real life don’t matter.”
Another friend said that particular genres of music help her focus (when writing, meditating or doing school work), but she also incorporates music into her routine when it’s time for a distraction (when exercising or driving).
Music has the wonderful ability to heighten our experiences. It can impact our emotions, transcend and strengthen present awareness, and inspire us to be the best we can be. Bono, the singer from renowned rock band U2, said: “Music can change the world because it can change people.” I have to agree with him.
Suval, L. (2015). How Music Heightens Our Experiences. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 18, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/how-music-heightens-our-experiences/