Scientists now agree with singers that time with a choir is well-spent.
Time Magazine reported this summer on studies showing that singing both relieves anxiety and contributes to quality of life: “singing is like an infusion of the perfect tranquilizer, the kind that both soothes your nerves and elevates your spirits” (‘Singing Changes Your Brain’ here).
Researchers are unsure whether the pleasures derive from endorphins or oxytocin, both of which generate feelings of relaxation and goodwill. The impact appears to multiply during group singing, as an individual sound is shared and bolstered by harmony, and it is even suggested that heart rates may synchronise within a choral group.
Fortunately it seems these hormones are released even when the singer’s voice ‘is of mediocre quality’, the shared pleasure and physical control being of greater importance than the sound.
But for those blessed with heavenly voices, the impact on their audience can be therapeutic too. See ‘Awakenings: the Beauty and Sadness of Performing in Care Homes’ Telegraph article here, plus the famous You Tube video clip of an old man’s awakening here.
The therapeutic value of music is now widely recognised, with groups such as Live Music Now providing musicians to perform in the community with the aim of sharing the pleasures of music.
Research is now being geared towards further exploring the links between the brain and music, indeed a new Clinical NeuroMusicology society was established this year with a focus upon:
research in the basic neurobiology of music
neurologic music therapy and neuro rehabilitation
music learning and training
music development in early childhood
A fascinating area of research, and one that can benefit those in all walks of life.
Meanwhile, back in rural Wherwell, we can take pleasure in our own explorations into the world of song, enjoying the expertise of Pedals and Dr. W. safe in the knowledge that it is doing us all the world of good.