Why Does Live Music Evoke Emotion?

live music

Have you ever wondered why watching live music can send chills up and down your spine, or even move you to tears? Read on to find out more.

A Physiological Reaction

A study was conducted in Japan to answer this very question about why music stirs emotions. The researchers monitored participants as they listened to emotional songs and monitored them to see how they reacted. 

They found that participants experienced a physiological reaction to what was played. This included quick breathing, faster heart rates and increased sweating for songs that elicited the ‘chills’. They also demonstrated a physiological calming during songs that triggered crying. The type of reaction was partly based on the emotional makeup of the participant; for example, those who possessed more ‘neurotic’ traits were more likely to cry. 

But why do songs trigger an emotional response at all?

1. Emotional Memories

One of the primary ways music triggers emotion is through the memories it is attached to. If you first heard a song while you were a carefree seventeen year old, partying with your friends and exploring the world, then the song is likely to bring back positive feelings associated with that time in your life. On the other hand, if a song reminds you of an old relationship that didn’t end well, it could bring back the pain associated with that event.

2. Shared Experience

Live music in particular is an incredibly emotive experience. Being in a room full of hundreds of other sweaty people and singing out loud with others can be almost spiritual. In that moment when your voice mingles with the other voices in the room, it’s as though you are all part of the same team.

This is why live bands can be such a powerful tool when you are planning an event. If you have a corporate event or a wedding where a lot of the people in the room don’t know each other very well, the shared experience of singing along to a band can be an incredibly effective ice breaker. 

If you’d like to go down this route, use an agency like Alive Network to search for a band that plays songs your event attendees are likely to have in common. Browse their online catalogue here https://www.alivenetwork.com/ and choose a band that fits! They will even allow you to reschedule without an admin fee if your event has to be postponed because of COVID-19.

3. Predictability

Another reason we resonate with music may be due to our brains’ ability to predict it. Humans are designed to seek patterns as they go about their day-to-day lives and music is another example of a pattern that we can predict because it is based on intuitive scales. This is also why it sounds so wrong when an instrument is out of tune or a note is missed.

Musicians can manipulate what emotions their audience experiences by knowing what their expectations are. Skillfully working audience responses in this way is what triggers tears and elicits chills.

4. Primal Response

Another theory is that our responses to music are based on a primal part of our brain, one that predates our ability to use and understand language. The music that we listen to today may mimic some of the musical calls used by our ancestors; for example, a frenzied staccato call may have predicted danger, and therefore our reaction to this in a song is to feel anxious. In the same way, a calm, soothing note may have indicated that all was well, and hence these sorts of notes invoke calm in us when we hear them.

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