Blog Post // 2022-07-11

The Power & Influence of Music

How much power does music have? Can it make or ruin your day? Can it change your physical or mental health? Can it cause you to act certain ways?

For me, music has moved mountains in my life! I can't explain to someone who isn't as into music, but I am guessing I am talking to the choir here, and you get it. I can’t imagine my life without it! I am so glad music is a thing! You likely know the positive effects music can have.

Music can absolutely, no-questions-asked, calm me down. I can go from wanting to punch a wall, to capable of conversation and patience just by listening to a song or two. I can go from hating the moment I am in, to feeling motivation. I can work out my thoughts and sort out a problem by listening to an album or playlist. Research has shown that listening to music can reduce pain, blood pressure, and anxiety. It can boost sleep, memory, mood, and mental alertness, so it isn't just me. It is a fact that music can make us feel good, make our body produce dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin. And it isn't across the board which music makes which person feel good - we all have our own taste. 

Considering the fact that I have a child with autism, it would be crazy for me to not mention the fact that we all have different sensory responses to sound. Some people can blast music at high levels and feel like they aren't getting any sound feedback. And some are incredibly reactive to sound, period. The threshold here for sound and music could be quite low. Though I think most people can find sound they like that is specific to them. The stress level associated with music is very individual.

But what about the negative influence music might have?

I know of several lawsuits brought against bands for causing children to do things. Parents of children who took their own life blame the bands for encouraging suicide - one of which is Iron Maiden (Maiden seems like a particularly weird claim, here). Can we really blame the music for the deaths of precious children? These kids were obviously depressed and/or dealing with trauma, but is there any validity to the idea that music moved them to suicide?

Slayer being accused of influencing three boys to kill a girl... How much did maturity, mental health, and brain development have to do with this, compared to the actual lyrics of the music?

Linkin Park being accused of influencing a serial killer? If it was really the music, there would be a larger percentage of people killing while listening to specifics songs. It is more about the state of the specific person. Not everyone is a serial killer, thankfully.

Slipknot blamed for influencing teenagers to kill one of their peers due to angry lyrics. When I was a teenager, I used to listen to the angriest part of a song as loud as I could, over and over, and I never killed anyone! 

The music didn't kill anyone, the person did, right? Just like guns don't kill people, people kill people. There are many examples of bands being blamed for actions people have taken, states of mind people have been in.

When I think back to my extremely depressed childhood, and the music I was listening to, I know I was depressed - period. The music was not the cause. There is no doubt that some songs didn’t lift me up, and maybe they helped me stay in a negative head space. I was struggling with a mental health condition. I had distorted thoughts. If I listen to the same music now, I don’t have the same reaction.

I have heard of bands that actually do have the intention of making people harm themselves, and quite frankly, that is very sick! Even so, can the music really accomplish that goal?

Scientifically-speaking, music can have negative effects on the nervous system, psychological system, and can cause a rush of adrenaline, depending on the person and music choice.

Music can certainly become almost like an idol that you put on your homemade pedestal and worship. Like many things in life, it can have a consuming effect. But, can you blame it for the state of your life?

I have a friend that was going through very hard times. She wasn’t feeling good about herself. She felt like she needed to take a break from everything associated with her life, as it was. One of those things was the music she was listening to. She went from metal to classical music. She needed to clear her head. Once she found herself again, she could get back to life as before. It seemed drastic, to me, but I had a similar experience where I stopped listening to the music I associated with my most-depressed time for several years. Once I was doing better, I could listen to it again.

Recently, I had personal experience with just how negative the effects of music can be. At my new job, working with a young adult with fetal alcohol syndrome, I was subjected to one song that I hate, for 6 hours - the same exact song, over and over. The lyrics were threatening, violent, and the genre was one that I despise. I literally think it took years off of my life. It made me feel crazy; I was shaking internally, irritable, my head was pounding, my ears couldn’t respond normally to people talking to me. It was like I had a gong ringing in my ear. I had to come down from it when I got home. Thankfully, Swallow The Sun and In Mourning have been rescuing me on my drive home. But how does music make someone feel so physically terrible? What would happen if I was subjected to this every day?

And this makes me think of how music is used. Listening to music to relax, to get motivated, to let off some steam, are all common uses. But what if you used it with the intention to put yourself into a trance, or if it was used literally as torture, or in some kind of spiritual way? How would this affect you? Could it move you to insanity, or influence you to act in a certain way?

What is my conclusion? I think music can ruin your day just as much as it can make your day. It can affect your physical and mental health. The better question might be: how much?

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