Research is now starting to reveal some puzzling ways in which music influences us. Why, for instance, are relaxing or uplifting effects sometimes only fully experienced after listening? Does a change of tempo in a sound track, or even silence itself, have a delayed impact on nervous system? Dr. Luciano Bernardi measured the heart rates, breathing rates, and blood pressure of 24 men as they listened to sections of slow and fast classical music, techno, rap, and more. To Bernardi’s surprise, bodily functions only drop significantly when the music slowed down or ended—or when he inserted an unexpected two-minute pause into each track. This delayed response occurred whatever music the subjectslistened to, or was most noticeable during gaps in slower music.
According to Bernardi, listening to music involves some focus of attention, and it’s only when that focus ends that the body fully relaxes. Bernardi claims we could tackle physical and mental stress by creating our own music, alternating between fast and slow rhythms, creating our own music to reduce stress and anxiety. It may not be what we listen to, but how we listen to it that turns music into therapy.