Exploring the cognitive effects of Music.

A few weeks ago, I received an email from Alex of Valourborn, whose works have intrigued ever since I chanced upon it while waddling in the cascading blogroll of the WordPress Reader in the early days of my little adventure. During November of 2013, she took part in the annual novel-writing project Nanowrimo, and ever since then I have bugged her constantly for her to release her novel. And then, it finally came – attached to the email was a .docx document with a dozen pictures.

alex's email

It’s a good day 🙂

She also told me how she drew inspiration from music, and that these song tracks have indeed shaped her story. When applicable, the respective tracks and a portion of the lyrics were highlighted in blue and placed prior to each chapter; like a prelude to the main story.

About a good three quarter past the book, I began pondering the effects of the musical tracks. Sometimes the semblance was light, other times heavy – but it’s there. Through some sort of mechanism all these songs have influenced her state of mind. Music sometimes peps you up, giving you the energy to run another 10 miles, while other times throwing you off a building and then empathizing with your damaged soul in a twisted way – the list goes on.

A language

It has the power to evoke mood, emotions, feelings through association. All music is essentially symphonic, similar to the spoken tongue. And at times, these evocative properties rings through without the use or understanding of any spoken language. As adults, people focus primarily on the meaning of speech. But babies begin by understanding and deciphering the patterns between these vocal performances: the rise and fall of tonal dynamics, the rhythmic and phonetic balance of the melody. The spoken words come into play later in their academic journeys.

These artists could be communicating emotions to the listeners, hoping to evoke similar feelings or even empathize with them. And with some of the more solemn pieces reaching out to find affirmation in their own turbulent, mournful or even chaotic feelings.

We then find solace in these fragments of ambiguous vocal performances; each unique piece finds a place in your heart. Your feelings resonates with those transcribed from the songs, like a conversation with close friend. They tend to accompany you through memories recalled or thoughts and fantasies created concurrently.

Reciprocal reaction

I noticed there was a subtle, tastefully darker undertone in the chapters where the inspirational music was a lot more tenebrous. People tend to regard music as an abstract form of communication. It surely is auditory, but its effects may span further than simply enjoying those beats. For some reason, this complicated symphony of sounds come together to create a movement – one that may be more corporeal then we usually give it credit for.

When someone waves at you, you wave back. Or at least you get the urge to – as instructed by social cues. But even without, there would be undoubtedly a prompt to reaction or minimally neural processes would be fired off, even if you decided to not react with any physical movement.

Similarly, the instrumental chords and vocal notes that reverberate through the air and into your ears. These sounds echoes throughout our entire being, prompting us to respond to it. For some, the body itself becomes an instrument for replying. Some symphonies invites the listener to break out in a dance, others to serenade. And perhaps, even while suppressed, this almost primal reaction channels itself through some other form.

But of course – all this quasi-scientific neuroscience talk is based upon afternoons of pondering, so take it all with a pinch of salt.


This post was inspired by Alex, whose abilities have made me envious all too many times.
Oh and, for the record – here’s a song I was listening to whilst writing this.
Maybe that’s why I sounded rather blissfully detached – maybe.


5 thoughts on “Exploring the cognitive effects of Music.

  1. I’m glad to have inspired you 😀 Although the music is the ultimate inspiration here. That’s a great point you made, about babies learning first the meanings of tones, rather than words themselves. Music is one of those incredible languages that can describe with sound what a dictionary sometimes fails to achieve. I wish I could play an instrument just for that reason. Maybe one day I’ll learn something 🙂

    PS: I just realized looking at the picture of the email that the first 4 pictures I sent you were supposed to be other pictures. Oops 😛 Methinks I shall have to fix that.

    1. Me too! I can’t play any musical instrument at all, not even the recorder. And my singing – I don’t even know how to describe it. I once recorded my own singing some pop fluff a few years back, upon listening, I’ve never sung in public again. It drains your soul :X

      Haha, please do send the photos! I’d be going to Taiwan for the next few days to come, so I’d probably only reply after or if I get a decent wi-fi connection. 😀

      1. Ooh, recorders give me shivers. I’ve never liked them, not even as a kid. Aha, that sucks! I actually enjoy singing, but like you, I wouldn’t dare do it in public–not seriously, anyways.

        Phew, that sounds awesome! I hope you’re having a great trip 😀

  2. Reblogged this on Valourbörn and commented:
    The wonderful PP1MT was inspired by my use of music to tap into an emotional current whilst writing my NaNo novel. It was my first time, using music to fuel my words, and it was an incredibly rewarding experience. While words can stir your mind, music can quiver through your heart and soul, carrying you away on an adventure found only through notes and tunes. Go read his post–he makes fantastic points 🙂

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