Issue 10 | June 2009

Cochlea of the inner ear

Music, Mind and Medicine

***Articles reviewed and updated in July 2014***

It is hard to imagine a world without music. Most of us hear some form of music every day, and it is a powerful trigger of emotional memories. Even so, music remains one of life’s great mysteries. How can it have such a powerful impact? And what exactly is music?

Browse through our articles and interviews, listen to the audio library and check out our lesson ideas to find out more. This issue was first published in 2009; in 2014, all of the individual resources were reviewed and updated for accuracy and currency. Please do note, however, that the PDF of the original 2009 issue has not been updated from its original form.

 

What is music?

What is music?

The different elements of music and what they mean

Music audio library

Listen to our clips to hear examples of pitch, timbre and other elements of music

Harmony in my head

How do we hear?

Wired for sound

The brain has a complex interconnected set of pathways for processing music

Always on my mind

Our brains recognise octaves as special

Abacab

A short history of music

Talking loud and clear

How are music and language related?

Effects on mind and body

Second that emotion

Emotion is fundamental to the musical experience

Heartbeat

Music can trigger powerful physiological responses

You shook me all night long

As any Hollywood soundtrack composer knows, music can be used to manipulate people’s state of mind

Good vibrations

What is quality music?

Like a rolling stone

What does your musical taste say about your personality?

What makes a good musician?

Day after day

Could anyone, given the opportunity, become a concert pianist, or are there a select few with the potential to excel?

I can make you feel good

What role is there for music in modern medicine?

Simply the best

What does it take to be musically gifted?

Rock me Amadeus

Does music make you smarter?

I feel fine

Music has a long history in the healing arts

Crazy

Tarantism is a peculiar chapter in the story of music and health

Musical scientists

Scientists are increasingly turning to music and dance

Musicians’ dreams

Can musical inspiration strike in dreams?

Ailing musicians

Musicians experience a range of maladies, including carpal tunnel syndrome, musculoskeletal complaints and allergic reactions

What is the point of music?

I heard it through the grapevine

Why did music evolve?

She bangs the drums

When did music first appear?

All around the world

Music, like language, shows much regional variation

House of the rising sun

Can animals make music?

Leader of the pack

Music can be a powerful bonding agent

Pleasure and pain

Music plays a central role in the healing and medicine of the Circassian (or Adyghe) people of eastern Europe

Unusual perceptions

Bring the noise

Not everyone can hold a perfect tune, but some can’t actually tell they are out of tune

I can’t get you out of my head

Imagine having a song on permanent play in your head – that’s what people with musical hallucinations have to contend with

Now you’re gone

Loss of hearing is an occupational hazard for musicians – and a problem for those who listen to them

Red red whine

People with synaesthesia may experience music in radically different ways

Say hello, wave goodbye

Musical interests can fade away – or suddenly appear

Backwards messages

Are bands corrupting young people by burying subliminal messages in music, audible only when played backwards?

Music and creativity

She blinded me with science

What is this thing we call creativity and how does it apply to music?

You drive me crazy

Musical geniuses: are they all mad?

Ailing musicians

Musicians experience a range of maladies, including carpal tunnel syndrome, musculoskeletal complaints and allergic reactions

Music and autism

Is there a special relationship between autism and music?

Rhythm is a dancer

Music is commonly accompanied by dance – indeed, the two may have evolved together

Kick over the statues

Music has been used both to suppress and to promote dissension

Real Voices interviews

Real Voices interview: Troi ‘DJ Chinaman’ Lee

Troi, who was born deaf, is the head organiser of Deaf Rave, a music party for deaf people

Real Voices interview: Dr Adrian North

Meet Adrian, a music psychologist based in Edinburgh

Activities and lesson ideas

Melodic Marvels lesson idea

Explore the nature of auditory illusion and hallucination, the effect of music on our minds and bodies, and the potential for music in medicine

Music audio library

Listen to our clips to hear examples of pitch, timbre and other elements of music

Further resources and activities on music and the mind

Wellcome has funded organisations to produce the following activities and resources that will engage young people on the topic of music and the mind

Fast Facts

Each issue of 'Big Picture' comes with a sprinkling of Fast Facts, fascinating snippets of information on the topic covered.

Browse through all of our Fast Facts indexed by topic