Music Helps Identify Emotion, Helps With LDs

. Saturday, March 7

It turns out that you were right when you said "musicians are weird." OK, maybe you didn't say that, but I did, and I'm a musician - it takes one to know one. Science has finally caught up to me and has come to the same conclusion I have always had.

Musicians are far better at tuning into and hearing emotion. The study was published in the European Journal of Neuroscience, and had 30 people watch a nature film while listening to a baby crying. Electrodes pasted to their scalp picked up on the fact that musicians reacted stronger and more accurately to the emotional aspects in the sounds of the baby's cries.

While the study itself is narrowed down to minimize outside influences and variables, the implications are quite broad. It was noted that the part of the musicians' brain that processes emotion in sound is the same area of the brain that people with dyslexia and autism show a marked deficit. This suggests that these disorders may benefit greatly from musical training.

On the flip side, the more musical training a person has, the more in tune with his own emotions and emotions in sound he has. The ability to quickly and accurately identify emotions in sound is inherent from the start. Babies can distinguish the differences between a happy and a sad song.

My own experience as a lifelong musician who has known countless musicians has led me to conclude that there are two types of musicians:

The technical side of music is mathematical and is easily approached from that aspect. Math is processed on the opposite side of the brain than emotions are. Musicians that are more technical seem to capture the emotion in the music by mimicry instead of tapping into their own emotions. These musicians are the ones that will play the loudest and act egomaniacal off stage. The reaction they get from their music is "wow."

The second type of musician is the one that taps into their own emotion and uses music as a form of expression of that emotion. Incorporating the technical side of music seems to somewhat limit the emotional expression for this type of musician. These musicians are the ones that play well with others, know that ego has little to do with music, and that react to music with goosebumps and shivers of delight. The reaction from listeners to their music is goosebumps and delight as well.

What is most interesting is that both technical and emotional musicians can switch from technical to emotional and visa versa from moment to moment! Nothing is ever set in stone with a musician.