" At the root of all power and motion, there is music and rhythm, the play of patterned frequencies against the matrix of time. We know that every particle in the physical universe takes its characteristics from the pitch and pattern and overtones of its particular frequencies, its singing. Before we make music, music makes us."
Joachim-Ernst Berendt, The World is Sound
Music lovers deeply immerse themselves in the mysterious oceans of sound. Music can be a form of escape. It gives us a voice when words fail. Music is the universal language that allows people to see themselves in others. Through music we validate suffering, pain and joy. Legendary guitarist Jimi Hendrix once proclaimed, "Music is my religion.". It is a tonic for the mind and a salve for the soul. Whatever makes us feel good has healing properties. But to what extent does music really affect our brain and body chemistry?
A recent study by Oxford University found classical music compositions matching the rhythms of our bodies can be used to control the beating of our hearts. Research presented to the the BCS- British Cardiovascular Society conference in Manchester, UK suggests that listening to music with a 10-second rhythm directly coincided with a drop in blood pressure. The findings show significant heart rate reduction. Beethoven's 9th Symphony adagio was one of those selections. (listen above) Compositions used in the Oxford study with similar heart rate effects include Franz Shubert's Ave Maria in Latin, Nessun Dorma by Giacomo Puccini and Va Pensiero by Giusuppe Verdi,
The study seems to indicate soothing music calms us regardless of whether we prefer the Foo Fighters or Franz Liszt. So it's not surprising heavy metal, rock music and even classical compositions with pulsating beats and quick tempos increased heart rates. But that doesn't mean rock music is harmful to our health either, It's not the 1950's. In fact more research will be done to examine the effect of music on our resting heart rates and blood pressure. Some day soon your cardiologist may be writing you a prescription for Dvorak instead of Diuril.
Many scientific studies have concluded or are still in progress evaluating different aspects of music and music as therapy. Instinctively, we may know that music heals, gives us happiness and finds a way to connect us to people who lived hundreds of years ago and those who live a thousand miles away.
This blog post is dedicated to my musician nephew, Drew celebrating a birthday, Saturday June 13th. Like many families, friends and strangers we have formed a bond by our love of music. So for those about to rock or Bach, we salute you.