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Orchestral Music and Emotions: The Beautiful Psychological Impact of Sound

Think of your favorite song. How does it make you feel? What memories does it evoke? How do you listen to it – sitting silently, singing along, moving around? Now think of a music score from a scary or thrilling movie. How does the score shape the scene you’re watching? How does your body respond to suspenseful sounds? Your heart rate may increase, or you may even cover your eyes in anticipation of an upcoming scare! 

Music is a powerful tool for evoking feelings and influencing our emotions. It is well-known and well-researched that humans respond directly to emotional signals in music. These signals “arise from shifts in the frequency spectrum, intensity and rate of acoustic information.” A slight tempo change in a song can shift your mood from hopeful to nostalgic or fearful to excited. So, how are our emotions linked to music, and what is the psychological effect of orchestral music? Our music experts at La Porte County Symphony Orchestra explore the psychological impact of sound in our newest article. 

Experts Explore Amazing Ways Music Impacts Your Psychology

Music and mood

Music directly (and obviously) activates the auditory cortex in the temporal lobes, the part of the brain responsible for processing sounds. However, scientists have conducted research that shows different types of musical stimuli activate different parts of the brain, indicating that music does influence moods and emotions. Other researchers have used functional MRI and PET scan technologies to study how different parts of our brain and nervous systems are activated by music and sounds. These and other researchers have proven that music directly influences our emotions – and that music-evoked emotions influence our bodies, too. 

Music and physiology

Another exciting and powerful way that musical stimuli affect our psychology is that they affect our physiology, too. Psychological effects from music, such as activating our nervous or endocrine systems, directly impact our bodies. When our brains process different musical sounds, instruments and tempos, our bodies react in unique ways. For example, when our ears hear fast-paced symphonies at the height of a climactic movie scene, specific parts of our brains are activated, which leads to physical feelings. We might feel shaky, our heart rate may increase, and our breath may catch because of how the musical stimuli, combined with visual cues, influence our brain! 

Music and cognition

Cognition is the science of thinking, perceiving, reasoning and remembering. Music has beautiful and profound impacts on our thoughts and memories, especially how we think and remember. Researchers have shown that even background music, such as playing music while doing chores or listening to tunes while driving, improves declarative memory and processing speed in older adults. Musical stimuli – and activating the different neural pathways they touch – are crucial to creating a robust network in the brain. A robust neural network ensures faster, more critical cognition. 

Music and socializing

A final and powerful psychological effect of music is its social power. Music connects us in countless ways, from the people we enjoy music with to how we engage in protests, activism and social movements. In the last decade, many political and socially motivated composers have created compositions that bring people together while forcing them to think critically about challenges and problems in our society. Engaging the brain in critical reflection through orchestral music is just one more beautiful, essential way music influences our psychology.

Stimulate Your Brain with LCSO

Music clearly and positively impacts our brains, moods, emotions and cognition. Keep your brain healthy with beautiful orchestral stimuli. Get tickets to see an LCSO show today!