The Effects of Music on the Brain
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“Music makes me forget my real situation. It transports me into a state which is not my own. Under the influence of music I really seem to feel what I do not understand, to have powers which I cannot have.” ~Tolstoy
The Power of Rhythm
Rhythm is a patterned measure of time. We sense it in music as stressed and unstressed beats in a pattern that repeats itself over and over again. This patter of stressed and unstressed beats is used to either enhance or thwart the way we perceive things. Rhythm is also the glue that holds our very lives together. All of our systems, from the smallest to the largest, work under the influence of rhythm. Rhythm plays an important roll in the ability of our mind to organize billions of electrical impulses into clear, understandable mental pictures. When there is movement of any kind or size, microscopic or gigantic, rhythm controls that movement. When you change the rhythm of a movement you can also change the outcome of the movement. Rhythm then controls the way the message is sent along the neurological system, thereby controlling the way it is perceived. This means that rhythm can change our mental pictures or our perception of reality. A closer look at the way a message travels in the body will help us understand the use of rhythm.
Communication within the body is electrochemical. For example, with the ear picks up sound waves it changes them to electrical impulses or messages. These electrical impulses then move from the neurons (in the ear) along an axon to a dendrite or dendrite spine to a synapse. This impulse or message crosses over the space to the synapse by a chemical movement to the next dendrite and continues moving electrically to the next neuron. This process is repeated over and over along the neurological system until the message reaches its destination. This process is repeated billions of times throughout our body in every minute of the day. The very fact that impulses move, places them under the control of rhythm. Research is beginning to show that this is the case.
On pages 90, and 131, of this book Battle for the Mind Dr. William Sargent, a leading scientific authority on the human nervous system, writes, “Electrical recordings of the human brain show that it is particularly sensitive to the rhythmic stimulation by percussion and bright light among other things, and certain rates of rhythm can build up recordable abnormalities of brain function and explosive states of tension sufficient enough to produce convulsive fits in predisposed subjects. Of the results caused by such disturbances, the most common one is temporarily impaired judgement and heightened suggestibility.”
When the mind and body are subjected to rhythms that abide not the law, that are not in harmony with the bodys natural rhythm, the mental picture is altered or not clear. The body is put under stress and problems begin to appear.
In Rock From the Beginning, a 1969 book by Nik Cohn, Mick Jagger, lead singer for the Rolling Stones, described the heavy emphasis on rhythm in his group’s music, saying, “It was nothing but beat, smashed and crunched and hammered like some amazing stampede. The words were lost and the song was lost. You were only left with the chaos, beautiful anarchy. You drowned in noise. The sound destroyed you, raped you regardless, and you had no defense left.”
“There must be a condition of harmony or perfect balance,” wrote Boston psychologist Dr. James Girard in The Wanderer, “between the mental, emotional and physical operations of the organism if it is to function properly. It is precisely at this point that rock and roll, and much modern music, becomes potentially dangerous. This is because, to maintain a sense of well being and integration, it is essential that man is not subjected too much to any rhythms not in accord with his natural body rhythms.”