Heartbeats

Building music is a natural extension of life, most people have tapped their foot to a tune only they can hear in their mind, they drum their fingers against the steering wheel, they breathe to a rhythm of a song they vaguely remember when exercising. I recall an interview delivered by John Cash where he indicated the timing of his first recording was set to match his heartbeat rhythm. Music is all around us, inside us, it surrounds us. Art is core to who we are; it partially defines what makes us different from the animal kingdom. From my humble viewpoint, a few of us take the artistic instinct a bit farther and ‘make up little ditties’ that reflect our thoughts at the moment the song was created.

I once read in Scientific American an article about Lucian Bernardi. He said  – Music induces a continuous, dynamic and to some extent, predictable change in the cardiovascular system. Understanding the mechanisms of how swelling crescendos and deflating decrescendos affect our physiology could lead to potential new therapies for stroke and other conditions. As I recall from the article, Bernardi and his research team determined that changes in the cardiovascular and respiratory systems appeared to mirror the tempo and voracity of songs.  He monitored physiological signals using 24 participants (some musicians and others were not); using five random selections of Beethoven, Bach, Puccini and other classical artists as well as a two-minute segment of silence. His team noted that selections with crescendos led to proportional constriction of blood vessels and increases in blood pressure, heart rate and respiration. They measured comparative decreases during decrescendos and silent periods of the music.  Furthermore, they noted that segments of the songs with aggressive phrasing caused the heart rate to move towards synchronization with the music.  Both groups experienced this entrainment, although the musicians showed a stronger response.

What do we do with this information? I suggest that we maintain awareness our body tunes to the surroundings, we adapt and embrace the good vibrations that we are swimming in every day.  It is equally important to consider the application of abrasive or aggressive music on our body.  The study suggests we can become physically weary from aggressive music.

Perhaps the musician has more control over a group of people that we first thought. Perhaps the composer should consider the impact of music on their listeners.  Perhaps there should be accountability for what we compose.

I have my own particular sorrows, loves, delights; and you have yours. But sorrow, gladness, yearning, hope, love, belong to all of us, in all times and in all places. Music is the only means whereby we feel these emotions in their universality. ~H.A. Overstreet

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