The Calming Effects of Classical Music

Research on the effect of music on cognition is still inconclusive but promising.

Multiple studies have been completed that attempt to answer the question of whether music can affect the mind and body. For most of us, we know that when we listen to certain types of music, it affects our mental and physical states. Taking a deeper look into this subject requires analysis of data and literature and forming an opinion based on that information. As it turns out, there are some surprising results.

Classical Music

Classical music is any western art music that stems from a highly formal compositional process. This can include music by wind symphonies, symphony orchestras, chamber ensembles, solo, and duets. Some of the prominent composers of the Classical period include Ludwig Van Beethoven and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. People often attribute calming and relaxing qualities to classical music. Whether this is true or not may largely depend on the perception of the listener.

Physical Effects

According to Laurence O'Donnell at the Cerebromente website, classical styles of music affect heart rate, decreases blood pressure and improves learning ability. It seems that music with a faster rhythm and pulse can increase heart rate, while music with a more relaxed and slower tempo, can lower the heart rate. He also states that music can "cause the pupils to dilate, increase blood pressure and increase the heart rate."

Mental Effects

There is a common theory that listening to the music of Mozart enhances intelligence that could lead to a calmer and more relaxed disposition. According to Stanford GSB News, this theory was taken out of context from "the 1993 Nature journal report titled 'Music and Spatial Task Performance'." In this experiment, the study shows modest temporary gains in college students that listened to classical music, however, no studies were done on children or adults in differing circumstances. In later studies, even these results were difficult to replicate. While there may be no benefit of increased intelligence from listening to classical music, according to a Western Connecticut State University there is still a significant calming effect on the mind when listening to classical music.

Music Therapy

According to the American Music Therapy Association, listening to music in a controlled manner with a licensed professional can help to "promote wellness, manage stress, alleviate pain, express feelings, enhance memory, promote physical rehabilitation and improve communication." The association notes therapists regularly care for people with brain injuries, Alzheimer's, emotional problems, substance abuse and can help relieve pain. Music has been found essential in helping to calm and relax patients and create a comfortable atmosphere for people to work in.


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