Music goes a lot deeper than most people think. It has the power to make best friends fight, make strangers instant friends, and can even have the same effects on your body as cocaine, sex or food.
There is a science behind music, and the study of this is defined as “musicology.” Musicology can be applied to several real-world practices, such as medicine and education.
Dustin Burk, a musician who has been extensively studying various areas of music for roughly 14 years, explained some practical applications of musicology.
Music in education is something we are probably all familiar with, especially in the early stages of a child’s development. Remember learning your ABCs thanks to “Sesame Street?” Or perhaps you recall learning basic sentence structure via “School House Rock?”
Music helps children remember basic facts by tapping into central systems in our brains that are sensitive to things like beats and melodies. Oddly enough, humans are the only primates with the ability to remember beats.
Thanks to evolutionary adaptations somewhere down the line, we developed the ability to remember music. This was likely due to a lack of written language, and the need to remember spoken word in the form of song.
You’ve also probably heard learning to play a musical instrument is good for kids. As it turns out, this is very true.
In a 2008 study by various experts in neurology, researchers found that children with at least three years of training on an instrument performed better on auditory discrimination and fine motor skills than those with no training or less than three years of experience. In addition, the kids with three or more years of experience also scored higher on vocabulary and nonverbal reasoning skills.
As a medicine, music can be used in an increasingly large number of ways. Burk said he believes there are several ways music can be used as a medicine. When Burk is feeling a little nauseous after a night of drinking, instead of reaching for a bottle of aspirin, he reaches for his guitar.
“This might sound crazy to some people, but I can cure my own hangover by picking up my guitar and playing some harmonically pleasing tunage,” said Burk. “On the rare occasions that I wake up and feel like my head is spinning, I can center myself and drastically improve how I feel.”
Many studies in this area have been conducted in recent years. A few of such studies have linked music to several health benefits including exercise, stress relief, digestion, and even helping with various forms of mental illnesses such as dementia.
A study titled, “Music, Emotions, and Pleasure,” proved that when a person listens to a song of their choosing, their brain releases an increase of dopamine ranging from 6 percent to 28 percent, just 1 percent less than a person releases after using cocaine.
Burk explained that Eastern medicine has known about the medical benefits of music for thousands of years. But, when it comes to Western science, many experts are still skeptical.
“Chinese Psychosomatic Music for Therapy claims to be able to cure illnesses such as obesity, cancer, stroke, headache, and coronary arteriosclerosis,” said Burk. “With that being said, I haven’t intentionally tried to cure anyone else’s ailments with music, but I bet I’ve definitely put thousands of people in a good mood.”
While some may think all this scientific encroachment on music may spoil all the fun, I for one strongly disagree. We have barely scratched the surface in terms of our knowledge about music and its real-world applications. To me at least, music is humbling, and the more we know about it, the more reasons we have to love it.