If you are on Desert Island Discs, what discs do you choose?
That was how we started this conversation… Maybe you have your own plans carefully worked out; maybe your list changes with the weather; maybe you think lists are so 20th Century! The question got our conversation off to a good start: How great to see people’s faces when they recall that favourite Northern Soul track or the amazing bit in Beethoven’s String Quartet opus 130.
After indulging our memories we looked at why people choose particular pieces- for some people it is to impress others with how smart or how cool we are; for some it is to re-evoke an important memory or connection with others; and some people use it to remind us who we are – what our values are and where we come from. Before we got too deeply into self psychology we reflected on music in films and how powerful music is in setting an atmosphere. Is it manipulation of our emotions? Of course it is; we are talking Hollywood here! But music has played such a central role in culture and identity it must be more than that. Otherwise why would so many totalitarian regimes either ban music or restrict our choices?
Is it our brain or our mind engaging with music? The discussion started with a bit of mother-and-baby research on Norwegian lullabies which are chosen very subtly to shift a baby either back to wakefulness or towards sleep. Music has a particularly powerful effect on releasing oxytocin- the hormone involved in breast feeding. Music seems so closely involved in attachment and attunement, and whether we take a biological or a psychosocial view there are some powerful forces released. We touched on music as therapy, and in therapy; and the opposite when music is used in torture to disorient a person and leave them feeling unconnected and not grounded. A rich conversation that is worth revisiting.
Dr Frank Margison introduced the discussion of MUSIC at the Cafe Psychologique on 13 January 2015.