We all know that music is an art and there are no disputes about that, but some may not know that it is also a science and may feel a bit skeptical about that point of view. That is understandable because we have mostly been exposed to music as a source of entertainment or as a part of our culture or tradition. But, there’s way more to music than that, and this side of music is slowly seeing the light of day with each new discovery from researchers and scientists across the world.
Various fields are finding the benefits and uses of music and its connections to the areas they are studying. This is particularly evident in the fields of math, medicine, and psychology. But, what is it about music that makes it so relevant to these sciences? Here are some research-based facts that might be able to help you understand the science of music.
The Physics and Math in Music
The well-known Greek philosopher and mathematician, Pythagoras, was probably the first to recognize the science hidden in music. He identified that splitting the strings of musical instruments at certain ratios produced a pitch that was an octave higher. This began with splitting the string into half, followed by thirds, then fourths, each time raising the pitch an octave higher.
This was one of the earliest links made between physics, math, and music. This 2500-year-old concept is known as the overtone series or the harmonic series, and musicians tune their instruments to this mathematical ratio to this day. Pythagoras further implied that planets and heavenly bodies emitted notes of vibrations and frequencies in relation to their distance from each other in ways that we couldn’t understand or hear.
Other Scientific Connections of Music
Research in medicine and psychology has found various ways in which music impacts us mentally and physically. Apart from the benefits and impact of music on our mind and body, studies are also being conducted in other areas that are too complicated to even get into in this article. However, here are some findings that shed light on how interconnected music and science are.
- Music has an effect on our autonomic nervous system. For instance, songs with a slow rhythm can slow down our heartbeat and breathing and also reduce psychological tension by controlling our feelings and emotions.1
- An overwhelming 72 studies conducted on nearly 7,000 patients have found that music can help lower anxiety and reduce pain in patients before and after surgery.2
- Researchers from the National University of Singapore created music protein with the help of algorithms that mapped strings of amino acid features onto fundamental music features, such as note length and pitches.3
- Listening to music is also found to be beneficial in elevating mood, reducing stress, improving mental health, and increasing physical endurance.4
These are just a few of the ways in which music is interconnected with science. The scientific mysteries of music are being studied, explored, and revealed every day by researchers across many different branches of science, and there is definitely more to come from these fascinating investigations.
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1. U Ibekwe Eunice. (2020). Music as Art and Science: An Evaluation | UJAH: Unizik Journal of Arts and Humanities. UJAH. https://www.ajol.info/index.php/ujah/article/view/198247
2. Tuning Into Your Favorite Music May Boost Post-Op Recovery – WebMD. (n.d.). Retrieved July 26, 2022, from https://www.webmd.com/pain-management/news/20150812/tuning-into-your-favorite-music-may-boost-post-op-recovery
3. Scientists Create Music From the Molecules of Life | Technology Networks. (n.d.). Retrieved July 26, 2022, from https://www.technologynetworks.com/proteomics/news/scientists-create-music-from-the-molecules-of-life-354168
4. 9 Health Benefits of Music | NorthShore. (n.d.). Retrieved July 26, 2022, from https://www.northshore.org/healthy-you/9-health-benefits-of-music/