by Charlie Doom
Music is as old as humanity, yet we know very little about the powerful form of communication. These seven facts will help shed a little light.
1. Music Stuns the Savage Beast (and the audience)
There is a scientific reason why the most stunning bands in history were also the loudest. A Canadian study found that listening to music at 95 dB can reduce your mental and physical reaction times by 20% (The Who used to perform at 120 dB). However, this only matters when you’re operating a heavy and dangerous piece of machinery — like a car. The study was conducted for research on the effect loud music has on driving.
2. When the Volume Goes Up, So Do Drink Sales
A French study found that when the loudness of bar music was increased from the usual 72 dB to 88 dB, bar-goers drank at least 1 more beer on average during their stay. No one really knows why this is, but some studies suggest it’s because people get tired of shouting over the music and focus more on slinking under the table. It’s also well known that drunken people are prone to impulsive actions – make sure you have CDs for sale.
3. You Don’t Dance? Yeah, Right.
The human heart will automatically try to synchronize its beat with the tempo of a song. According to the latest studies, humans and songbirds are the only animals known to do this, suggesting our bodies are made to be “moved by music.” This perhaps answers the question as to why babies intrinsically dance to music, and why musical styles that feature strong, anchoring rhythms are so widely appealing. If you want a hit song, make sure it has a good rhythm.
4. Turn On the Music, Turn On Your Brain
An American study found that the musician’s brain has enhanced activity in the auditory cortex when listening to music, compared to the brain activity of non-musicians. This enhanced activity has nothing to do with answering test questions better, but it does mean musicians can interpret the complexities of a song better. How you can use this: if a critic says your band sucks, ask if they play an instrument. If they say “no”, tell them to kiss your ass. If they say “yes”, don’t let them see you crying.
5. I Hear What You’re Saying
An American study found that musicians with long-term musical training are better able to judge the emotion or intentions, and even the identity of a speaker based on changes in pitch within a syllable. Basically, a seasoned musician will know what you really mean no matter what you’re saying. Makes us wonder what the world would be like if everyone learned to play guitar. Incidentally, this brain skill is what helps with the composition of melody, and the understanding of tone and timbre.
6. Music Is Your Aeroplane
Listening to your favorite song can boost your feelings of wellbeing. A research team from Germany found that listening to “pleasant music” boosted levels of serotonin in test subjects. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter responsible for giving you good feelings and, strangely enough, regulating your bowel movements. The study also found that listening to “unpleasant music” had the opposite effect of decreasing serotonin levels. At any rate, this explains why you feel so good after an awesome jam session, why your favorite song can help you move on after something traumatic, and why people become fans of a particular band; they develop a mild emotional and physical dependency – almost like a drug.
7. Music is A Weapon
In 2005, a British luxury cruise liner fended off a Somali pirate attack using blasts of extremely loud noise from a new breed of non-lethal weapons. Known as a Long Range Acoustic Device, it’s the latest in a series of military grade “sonic weapons,” capable of emitting 150 dBs — enough to burst your ear drums — at a range of 984 feet. The device has also been used in war zones, like Iraq, and to control crowds in New Orleans during Katrina, but using sound and music as a weapon dates back decades. US troops blasted rock n’ roll to help flush out Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega in 1989; the FBI used “irritating” music in an attempt to end the standoff with the Branch Davidian cult in Waco, Texas; and the rock anthem, AC/DC’s “Hell’s Bells,” blared down the streets of Fallujah while US Marines battled the Mujahadeen. Even George Washington’s Army used a drum and fife corps as a command platform; their musical signals would direct troops during battle.
Perhaps one of the most interesting facts of music is that everyone is capable of making it. Long-term cultural studies have proved that the ability to make music is as inherent to human beings as speaking is — basically, everyone can do it. It is only in the Western social mindset that a select few are considered capable of being musicians, making the saying, “I don’t have a musical bone in my body,” one of the most widespread (and tragic) misconceptions in modern history. Don’t let anyone tell you what you can’t do.