Music and movement are inherently connected. It is for this reason that song and dance go hand in hand. By its very nature, "music compels us to move." This happens as a result of "connections between auditory and motor areas of the brain, whose communication during rhythm and beat prediction can be measured in neural oscillations" (Sakai et al., 1999; Janata and Grafton, 2003; Grahn and Brett, 2007; Zatorre et al., 2007; Grahn and Rowe, 2009; Janata et al., 2012; Fujioka et al., 2012).
Research is beginning to reveal that music's ability to move us goes beyond just the individual and physical dance. This article will explore the power of live music and its ability to synchronize groups of individuals through movement.
Music is a universal social phenomenon that has traditionally been experienced in a live context (Nettl and Russell, 1998; Freeman, 2000)
Music is universal. For centuries it has been used as a catalyst to bring people together from all walks of life. In the streaming era, despite having access to thousands of pre-recorded songs at your fingertips, there is still something special about experiencing music in a live setting that will forever be irreplaceable.
Scientists explored this phenomenon by comparing the impact of recorded music versus live music on individuals. They found that an iconic aspect of popular concerts is engaging with other audience members through moving to the music. Head movements, in particular, reflect emotion and have social consequences when experienced with others.
Music moves us at the cellular level, which results in physical movements such as head motions and other synchronized dance gestures. Enjoying music with others is a big part of the live music experience. Moving in unison with others has proven to have beneficial effects on individuals and contribute greatly to the live music experience. According to a recent study, concert audience observers noted that synchronously moving listeners experienced greater rapport and psychological states compared to those moving asynchronously.
After adults move in synchrony, even when unaware of their synchronized movements, they remember more about each other, express liking each other more, and show greater levels of trust and cooperation compared to after moving asynchronously (Hove and Risen, 2009; Wiltermuth and Heath, 2009; Valdesolo et al., 2010; Valdesolo and DeSteno, 2011; Launay et al., 2013; Woolhouse et al., 2016).
It was observed that physiological movements also synchronized through a phenomenon called entrainment. Entrainment occurs through the ability to synchronize with an external audio stimulus. Scientists found that concert attendees synchronized on multiple levels from physical movements such as head gestures and dancing, as well as physiological movements such as heart rate and breathing.
Shoda et al. (2016) reported that the heartbeats of audience members at a live performance exhibited greater entrainment with the musical rhythm than those of listeners at a pre-recorded performance. Performer presence was also found to produce greater relaxation in audience members compared to those listening to a recording (Shoda et al., 2016).
Music makes us move individually, but who knew it could move the masses in such a profound yet intimate way? Next time you attend a concert or festival, know that the music is working to help you bond with your fellow attendees in subtle yet powerful ways.
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