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Brain, Music, and Emotional Experiences

October 2nd, 2016 · No Comments · music and the brain

Brain, Music, and Emotional

Dr Alice at church

Have YOU experienced a sudden brain, music, and emotional experience?  This morning I was sitting in church, as I often do on Sunday mornings.  😉  We were transitioning from one section of the service to another and the organist started playing something that just catapulted me back in time!  I tried to analyze what was going on musically, but in the meantime I was flooded with emotion and tears started flowing.  Have you had that happen?  It’s really quite amazing and so, so powerful. The brain, music, and emotional experience should be understood.

My question is always, how can we harness that power and use it for something positive and good.  Musical response is so individual though and heavily related to life experience to date, the music you have heard and the way that it affected you at the time.  In my case, my father was a minister and I spent a lot of time in church as I was growing up.  I always loved music and, although I never particularly cared for the organ (until I heard a really great pipe organ), but I know that even then, occasional a beautiful chord progress and melody would make me very overcome with emotion.  And for no apparent reason?

Using my very best music analysis skills, I know that I like plagal cadences, and 4-3 suspension.  I like a certain type of voicing and spacing within the chord, and modal melodies.  I love Bach, Mozart, Franck, Handel and Pachelbel, but I also love John Rutter, Faure, and many 20th century church music composers.  Looking back, I’d say that his composer was probably French, 20th century, and an organist.  The name was not written in the bulletin because it was just a transitional moment.  Nevertheless, it had a sudden and unexpectedly powerful effect on me!  What happened in my brain?  I’m not sure, but it wasn’t  unpleasant.  I was taken back to the 1950’s in my mind and I saw the interior of many churches where my father was pastor.  I felt some sadness, but also a strong spiritual connection.  I was trying to feel the feelings, while also analyzing the music in real time.  The whole thing may have lasted a minute, but it was just so powerful, I wanted to write about it.

I’d love to hear your thoughts or similar experiences.  Thanks!

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