Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on Music, Mind and Well-being

Authored by: Penelope Gouk , James Kennaway , Jacomien Prins , Wiebke Thormählen

The Routledge Companion to Music, Mind and Well-Being

Print publication date:  December  2018
Online publication date:  December  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138057760
eBook ISBN: 9781315164717
Adobe ISBN:


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The last 30 years have seen a resurgence of interest in the connections between music, mind and well-being. This is hardly surprising as life has become inundated with music facilitated by its ever-increasing dissemination through digital technology. We no longer need to find a radio or CD player, let alone a live band. Each of us has a vast choice of music readily available through our preferred electronic medium and our choices are determined as often by loose emotional concepts such as music that is “sad,” “happy,” “relaxing” or “romantic” as they are by artist or genre. Social media abound with testimony to the use of music in daily life: to calm us, to inspire us, to distract us, to help us remember, to help us forget; to express ourselves or to avoid finding our own words; to bond with others or to shut ourselves off from the world; to intensify or overcome a particular feeling (Bull, 2007; Skånland, 2013). At the heart of all this lies the general assumption that music is somehow a “language of the emotions” with an almost magical link to our state of mind. Musical emotions are perceived to have an impact on the subjective sense of well-being and thus on psychological and physical health. In our everyday lives, the music-emotions-health nexus constitutes “common sense” on the subject, but doubts about its universal validity and questions around how it might function remain, at a time when research into the application of music’s “powers” is mushrooming across a variety of fields.

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