Posted by: Corina Paraschiv | February 18, 2009

Tune into Happiness!

A Study on Emotions and Music

Scientists have shown that there is a link between how people feel and the music they listen to.  In 1995, there was a study done at the Standford Medical School where a group of depression patients got randomly put into one of three groups.  The first group got workshops with musicotherapeuts every week, the second group used musicotherapy techniques but didn’t see a musicotherapeutist and the third group had nothing to do with music.  The results were quite surprising: both of the first groups showed significantly better moods and raised self-esteem AND those benefits actually lasted beyond the timeframe during which they received those visits.   You may not be depressive, but if it works for people who have completely lost their joie de vivre, it certainly can work for us too!

Boulanger, Grindlay and Knouf, from the Music, Mind and Health Project, write on the topic :

” There is near universal agreement amongst philosophers, cognitive scientists, performers, and the listening public as to the power of music to induce various emotional responses. Specifically, recent fMRI and behavioural studies have begun to elucidate the nature of this process.

One difficulty in understanding these emotional responses is the nature of the thing we are studying: humans have a notoriously difficult time expressing linguistically their specific emotional experiences. An even greater challenge is the description as a result of a non-linguistic activity, such as music. So we must ask the question: in what ways can we get accurate and meaningful descriptions of said experience given the arduousness of the problem?

Our tactics, in the nascent stages of their development, involve considering two tracks: one, asking listeners to select a large subset of emotional descriptors from a list of evocative words, assigning a strength, and then, as the experimentor, using machine learning techniques to discover patterns in the responses; and second, considering orthogonal tasks or actions for the listener to perform, where the induced emotional response will affect the development or outcome of the action.”


The Perfect Playlist

Here are some suggestions for the playlist you can get out when you feel the following emotions, as suggested by the various reasearches on the topic:

–  Sluggish : you can get out of a lethargic mode by putting on some music that is more upbeat to wake up your mind and body.  Anything you can dance to is good.

– Sad : studies showed that starting with a music that matches your mood and slowly moving up to upbeat, happy music, can help improve your mood.

–  Scares, or Stressed : play gentle, slow music, such as classical music or Enya, to slow down your heart beat and steady your breathing.

–  Stuck:  anything lively will do – jazz or upbeat classical music like Vivaldi


Some Cool Music Exploration Tools :

The Music, Mind and Machine group came up with some pretty funky music tools ranging from composition tutorial software to learn how to jam in different musical styles (based on various world cultures) to music mapping tool to organize your ipod lists.

Musicovery and Pandora are two other great websites that let you discover new music.  Musicovery asks you to pick your genres of prefered music and to indivate the mood you are in, and will play music in that range, while Pandora asks you to name artists or songs you like and generates a playlist based on your preferences, suggesting songs you may like.  By voting on every song and rating it, the system learns which features you like in songs and becomes more fine-tuned in its propositions.  The entire system was built around 500 music characterstics under which each song was classified to help the computer interpret the likes and dislikes of internet surfers.  Music podcasts are also available on Pandora’s website to learn the basics of music theory.


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