Researchers have studied the effect of background music on eating habits. In one study, they counted the bites of food people took at meals while listening to various types of music. The Tufts University Diet & Nutrition Letter reports that when no background music was played, the participants ate at an average rate of 3.9 bites per minute. However, when calming instrumentals were played, the pace slowed to 3.2 bites per minute—and the bites became smaller. In the latter instance, most left feeling full, and they claimed that the food tasted better. Reportedly, they also had fewer digestive complaints.
A car driver can become aggressive if he is listening to music that has recognizable lyrics, claims a music researcher in West Berlin. “The reason is that both parts of the brain (the left side records speech, the right side music) are being taxed simultaneously,” explains the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. Since instrumental music has no lyrics, and songs in a foreign language are not understood by most drivers, such music would be preferable. The study reveals, however, that the volume of the music also influences driving habits: The louder it is, the greater the strain on the driver.
More and more performers are discovering that their hearing is permanently damaged. Repeated assaults by loud music (over 100 decibels) cause the sound-carrying hairs located in the inner ear to flatten and lose their resilience permanently. One audiologist said that hours of music blasting through stereo earphones has the same effect as if the nozzle of a fire hose had been stuck down the ear canal. Pete Townshend of The Who once told The Toronto Star that “one of the great agonies ... is that long before you grow old, you can’t hear what children are saying to you.” Of his years of blaring rock ’n’ roll, he adds: “I think it’s worth saying that there is a price to pay for that: it’s premature deafness.”
“Among the reasons for the existence of music in virtually every culture is its ability to elicit and maintain human health and well-being,” says the book Principles and Practice of Stress Management. When we are singing, notes another reference, our entire body resounds and vibrates. In turn, gentle vibrations help tissues relax and dilate, which may help to reduce pain. Accordingly, some therapists encourage patients suffering from stress to listen to soothing music, which can also improve one’s mood. Some hospitals even pipe music into intensive care units. Premature babies as well as surgery patients often respond well to pleasant music. According to Principles and Practice of Stress Management, studies suggest that listening to relaxing music “produces significant reductions in stress hormone levels during surgery.” Music may also reduce anxiety in pregnant women by promoting relaxation during labor and delivery. And dentists sometimes play soothing music to create a more relaxed atmosphere for tense patients.
Around 1982-3 I performed at the official opening of the Piano House of New Zealand (officiated at by then-MP David Lange) when I was 17 years old. I have fond memories of the owner Kanti Vasan and other gentlemen employed there whose names I have since forgotten. Whenever I made subsequent visits Kanti always made me feel most welcome and almost a part of the team, and I was very sad to learn of his death in 2003.
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