Sunday, October 21, 2012

Music and Mental Health

I have never been much of an animal activist, but this article I read certainly made a very good case for the better treatment of animals in regards to music. 

The article summarizes a recent study at Colorado State University in which dogs were subjected to various musical genres. The point was to monitor and assess the relaxation of the dogs while hearing music and thereby provide better care facilities for the animals. In a controlled setting, the dogs were observed while they listened to classical music, rock music, modified classical music, and silence. The study found that the subjects were considerably more relaxed when listening to classical music or the modified classical music. Rock music made the animals agitated and restless. The conclusions were based on the animal's observable movements and vocalizations during musical exposure.

I found this study intriguing for several reasons. It is interesting for the ways it promotes better treatment for animals and how it implies that music is a special force for mental well-being. I would be curious to hear someone from the Dalcroze department remark on this fact. Given their focus on mind, body, and movement, they could provide some fascinating insight into the claims of this study. I do wish the study had been a bit more extensive. Having been limited to just dogs, I do find the credibility of the study a bit far-fetched. Besides, other, similar studies have come to different conclusions. One study even goes as far as to say that human music is uncomfortable for our pets and other animal species. This affects my confidence in the believability of this relaxation study. The results are not particularly definitive and could be easily refuted given other, larger bodies of evidence. Also, while rock music isn't characteristically relaxing, I am not happy that it has been automatically assumed to be the antithesis to classical music. 

However, I do think we agree that music, of all types, is a viable tool for relaxation. I myself often relax with a good Brahms symphony when I'm stressed. I will also unwind while listening to a Queen album if I feel so inclined. If music can relax a dog, it definitely has an influence on our own mental health. The extent of that influence is as varied and unique as the number of people who listen to music. Every individual perceives a different energy or catharsis within a musical work, regardless of the genre or your species. 

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