Why does listening to music make us feel so good?

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«The air becomes calm / and dresses in beauty and unused light, / Salinas, when the music is played, / by your wise ruled hand …». Fray Luis de León even speaks of “they are divine” and “they are sacred”. Music for his ears, literally, that of his friend Francisco de Salinas, to whom the poet gave these verses.

He takes it from the book of poems Félix Goñi, professor of Biochemistry at the UPV, passionate about “good music”, where he was started at home. “Since I was a child I have heard classical although it took me thirty years to appreciate Bruckner’s, which nevertheless my father loved.” Goñi theorizes about the beneficial effects caused by music, regarding the Musika-Music cycle, whose 16th edition is held until Sunday at the Euskalduna Palace in Bilbao and which this time focuses especially on Smetana, Dvorák, Janácek and Mahler .

«The effect of music is wonderful, I think it makes us better people. In fact, if we listened to more music we would be a happier society, because I don’t know if it tames the beasts of the zoo, but the human beasts, yes. And he gives the example of the poem to Salinas. “You see, Fray Luis de León said that his friend’s music raised him to ecstasy.”

Maybe it was an exaggeration of the poet, but something like this happens. “Music increases brain activity and has an immediate effect. In addition, since it is derived to the emotional area of ​​the brain, the sensation is one of well-being ”, explains the psychologist Manuel Nevado. And it makes a warning, obvious but necessary. «The effect is beneficial as long as we like the music and it transmits something to us, a memory, evokes something positive or neutral. If you don’t like it, it’s counterproductive. Let us not forget that it has also been used as a torture tool. “

“Like caviar, you have to try it several times”

Regarding what type of music produces these beneficial effects, Goñi refers not only to classical music, but to “good music” in general, which is a lot but not all. “I do not think that the song of the summer or the one that Eurovision wins will lead anyone to divine contemplation.” Probably not, but you shouldn’t rule out, in principle, any kind of music, warns the psychologist. «The important thing is that you transmit. For example, why does Raphael go to a festival in Aranda de Duero and expect a legion of youngsters in their twenties to an artist who in principle does not like young people? Well, they wait for him because as children they used to go in their father’s car listening to the Raphael tapes and they have associated those songs with a beautiful family moment ».

The shanty experiment in Buenos Aires
Music as therapy. “It has been investigated for many years and in autism cases the results are spectacular. It is also very beneficial for people suffering from Alzheimer’s, to work on the memory of pleasant moments, “explains psychologist Manuel Nevado. But the effects of music are not just medical. «There is an orchestra in Venzuela made up of marginal children. And I myself have had the opportunity to see a similar experiment in some shacks in Buenos Aires. That sounds like lightning bolts, but the experience of forming a group with disadvantaged people has undoubtedly improved life in the shacks. ”

In fact, one of the proposals that Nevado makes to the people he treats in his psychological cabinet is that they make “a list of six or eight songs that they like because listening to them when one is feeling badly helps to face the day.”

There is consensus that classical music produces benefits for everyone. Why?

In general, it is pleasant and generates satisfaction and well-being. In addition, it favors learning memory, so many people use it in the background to focus when they are working or studying. But let’s go back to before, if you don’t like classical music it’s counterproductive.

That you like classical music can happen spontaneously, or not so much. And Félix Goñi maintains that the profit we get “is proportional to the effort we make.” The expert does not conceive of listening as a passive act, but implies “an active attitude”, such as “the difference between watching the movie or reading the book.” “Some pieces of music are like caviar, which you still try and don’t like, but if people pay so much for something it will be.”

That is why he recommends perseverance, listening again, and another, and in each listening, he says, we will find a different nuance. Let’s say we see the painting of ‘Las Meninas’ for the first time. One can say that they are girls and gentlemen from behind. But if you look at it a hundred times you will see it in a hundred different ways, just as if you read ‘Don Quixote’ eight times it will seem to you that each time it is a different novel. ”

“If this takes 200 years liking people …”

Well, the same, he says, you have to do with music to get, if not to that ecstasy that Fray Luis de León related, at least to that pleasant sensation that the notes “lead us to a better world”. “You have to start with easy things, you are not going to be fond of Beethoven

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