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Music and time

The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils;
The motions of his spirit are dull as night
And his affections dark as Erebus:
Let no such man be trusted. Mark the music.
(The Merchant of Venice, 5.1.91-7)

Picture an army of soldiers going into battle amassing strength from war songs, picture a congregation lost in song as they connect to greater powers, picture family members, and friends lost in songs of solace as they bury their loved one. The idea that listening to music passes plenty of time while you’re engaged and feasting on its harmonious melodies is not foreign, but is it the deeper, and wider comprehension? Are there scientific facts or research that can tell us what really happens to a person in their mind, psyche, or brain while listening to music? Well! we can try and find out.

“Music is the literature of the heart; it commences where speech ends.”

Alphonse de Lamartine

The origin of music is still shrouded in historical mystery, it is believed that it occurred prior recorded history, with the notion that the human voice, sounds in nature like those of animals, and ocean waves are some of what might have encouraged the evolution of music. when we are in despair- we sing, when we are joyous- we sing, when we are amidst circumstances of ambivalence- we sing. 

“Ah, music,” he said, wiping his eyes. “A magic beyond all we do here!”

J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

Through the years, the growth, spread, and continued exploration of music as an art and form of expression, communication, release, and means of entertainment have impacted more people than we can fully calculate, nor thoroughly comprehend. We’ve even seen how it matters- not the genre, language, or origin of musician- we even find ourselves listening to foreign music in dialects we don’t even understand. Time has played a crucial role in this worldwide movement. Over the years, with the expansion of technology and how far across the world it has allowed us to reach, we can share and enjoy music from people we couldn’t have dreamed of having access to ten years ago.  

A study was undertaken by Stratton and his colleagues in 1992, to find out what happens when there’s music playing in shopping stores and waiting rooms, versus when there isn’t. It was found that people are more patient in waiting rooms and spend a little more time in shopping stores when there’s music playing in the background. According to Jones and Boltz in 1989;” the effect of music on time estimation is due to the perceptual expectancies that listeners develop when they hear a piece of music. The way musical accents are patterned through time leads listeners to anticipate the timing and nature of incoming events.” This means that the way we receive and appreciate music or groups of sounds has a direct relation to how we perceive time. It then makes sense that with music playing in the background, time really does fly, even when we don’t realize it. 

We cannot, however, neglect to remember how music makes people feel, and how that can further affect our perception of time. If you look through social media, you’ll find more than many people speaking of music as a big part of their lives. We’ve even heard of many people who say that music has saved their lives. Understanding how this phenomenon works isn’t difficult at all. There’s a study that looks at how music affects our emotions. Its aim is to break down things so we can get a deeper understanding of the relationship that music creates with a person on an emotional and psychological level. We have all probably experienced by now, how dance music makes you want to dance, and sad music creates sadness in-turn. Or how we refrain from listening to certain types of music to ensure we don’t conjure up emotions we’d rather not experience at a given time. That being said, music is an obvious part of our everyday lives whether we appreciate it or not. And for those of us who simply enjoy where the music takes us, and the memories and nostalgia it creates, it really doesn’t matter that much how it works, we just appreciate that it does.  

It sounds, and to a great extent is- a science, as to how exactly or why organized and categorized sounds can have life-changing effects on people. Music has embedded itself into the rhythm of our existence. On every level of living, lies music. We cannot, therefore, separate ourselves from it. It comes from us, created for us. We dance and cry, sing along to it, get lost in it, find ourselves in its notes. It gives us hope and allows us a few moments to reminisce about what once was, what could be. Music is our reason to wake up every morning, it is the reason we find joy every day. Music is us.

“Can a mere song change a people’s minds? I doubt that it is so. But a song can infiltrate your heart and the heart may change your mind.”

Elvis Costello

Blogpost by Basetsana Moloto