Mood, music and mind-set

I like most styles of music, varying from Marilyn Manson to Mozart, from Massive Attack to Moby. Apparently, Manson elicits doom-laden thoughts and Mozart educes cognitive lucidity. I think the link between music and mood is subjective. Certainly my Sunday morning playlist is different from my gym playlist… one is wandering and one is compelling; well to me anyway.  

So, does music effect mood?  I’m certain it does… but how?  

A group of academics (McCraty, Barrios-Choplin, Atkinson and Tomisino) from California carried out a study on ‘The Effects Of Music On Mood, Tension And Mental Clarity’.

They took four different genres of music: classical in the form of various Mozart compositions, grunge rock provided by Pearl Jam, new age from Enya and a dollop of so called ‘Designer’ music. This ‘designer’ music is specifically composed and calculated to have particular effects; it’s often represented by that well produced instrumental music of the wafty wash over variety.

The results of this research were split into adult and teenage subgroups. 

“Apparently Mozart reduced fatigue, sadness and tension in adults, but had little influence on the youngsters. Conversely, other studies have suggested Mozart piano sonatas increase concentration in younger people. ”

Grunge made the teens more hostile and tense, but increased their mental clarity and vigour. I can imagine parents saying: “Get upstairs, put on some Pearl Jam… do your home work, but try not to trash your bedroom.” Grunge also made the oldies more vigorous, but unfortunately simultaneously decreased their mental clarity.

Good old Enya made the adults really relaxed, but switched their brains off. She also delivered the youngsters an overall lethargy, indeed quite the case of: “Sail away... Sail away... Sail away.”

The designer music had an effect of reducing sadness and increasing a relaxed state in youngsters. The older cohort had a peak in caring, relaxation, mental clarity, and decreases in sadness, fatigue and tension.

Thus, the so-called ‘designer music’ seems to suit both groups, but selecting ‘designer’ may well ridicule anyone’s ‘cool’ persona. Anyhow, I’m not sure many people specifically choose to listen to this synthetic style of music. In my experience, it’s usually a consequence of being in a retail environment of some description.

Notwithstanding valuable academic analyses, this is all pretty personal in my opinion. The key is to really focus on different types of music, one piece at a time and try really hard to concentrate on what each piece makes you feel inside. Try and get in touch with the sensation that is felt inside you and not what you think about it. 

“I suggest that music does different things to different people, and anyway, where do you filter out variables like private nostalgia, musical memories and learned listening habits. ”

Most people will be able to tell how a particular piece of music affects them individually just by being in the moment and paying close attention. Then, if you so desire, you can make and use specific playlists to help enliven yourself, enhance cognition, reduce tension, ease low mood or just chill out. 

If you’re struggling with emotional problems, email

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