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from: Lyz Cooper

Great Expectations – Using musical expectancy for therapeutic purposes

GreatExpectations – Using musical expectancy for therapeutic purposes. Lyz CooperMA, MSc, FICNM Introduction As we go about our daily lives our emotions continually change butdespite our upbringing, environment or culture there are common ‘rules ofthumb’ when it comes to the emotional responses we have to external events and stimuli. Thesepredictable responses have been manipulated by story-tellers and playwrightsfor thousands of years, and more recently by movie makers. For example we see someone fall in love andour hearts expand we see someone die and we feel sad someone gets a pie inthe face and we laugh. In music there are also general rules of thumb that are used toencourage us to feel different emotions. The famous shower scene in the movie ‘Psycho’ would not be the same accompaniedby Bob Marley singing ‘Buffalo Soldier’ as opposed to the screeching sound ofviolins and the shark approaching in ‘Jaws’ would be completely differentaccompanied by ‘All that Jazz’ from ‘Chicago’. This article intends to provide some insight into how music and, morespecifically, sound is used to create certain emotional spaces and how we, atThe British Academy of Sound Therapy (BAST), use musical expectancy to help improvehealth and wellbeing. I will also givesome tips as to how to bring sound and music into your life to help improveyour mood-state. What isExpectancy? One of the most basic qualities of sound and musicis its ability to move us emotionally. Accordingto Meyer (1950), in Huron (2006) ‘the principal emotional content of musicarises through the composer’s choreographing of expectation’ p.2. As well as the sound of the piece (if it is ina minor key we may feel sad), the way we expectthe music to go creates an extra thrill which, in the field of musicpsychology, is known as ‘frisson’. Frisson is experienced as ‘chills’ or ‘goose bumps’ - if you have everfelt the hairs on your arms stand up when you hear a track you love come on theradio you have just experienced frisson. The chills usually indicate that you have given yourself a shot of dopamine,a hormone associated with pleasure and reward. When you expect a piece of music or sound to go the way you think it isgoing to go you may reward yourself with dopamine for getting it right. Interestingly though, research has also shownthat if the music or sound doesn’t gowhere we expect, some people will still have a positive emotional response andothers will have a negative emotional response. The positive or negative emotional response can depend on whether theperson has a tendency towards anxiety and feeling unsafe or not. This reaction has interesting implications fortherapeutic work, which I will touch on later in this article. Howdoes it work? Music and sound are powerful drivers of humanemotion due to certain pathways in the brain that have evolved that enable usto ‘hook into’ music and be taken along on an emotional journey. These pathways were originally associatedwith our primal survival mechanism and evolved to enable us to prepare to fightor flight, to mate and form societies. Expectancy (to both musical and non-musical events)elicits both physiological and psychological changes. The physiological changes happen because thesystem is preparing itself for what may come and includes heart rate increase,pupil dilation, goose-bumps and chills, rapid breathing (or even holding of thebreath) distracting thoughts disappear, muscles tense and we may also perspire. Adrenaline and cortisol may be released intothe system if the anticipation is fear-based. Although the physiological changes are very similar for both fear andexcitement, with positive feelings there is a release of endogenous opioidssuch as endorphins (a neurochemical) as well as dopamine. (Goldstein, 1980). Bloodand Zatorre (2001) also recorded increased blood flow in the brain (observedduring PET scans) that are characteristic of euphoric or pleasurableexperiences when listening to music. The psychological changes occur in response to thefeelings that the music gives us and this depends on the type of instrumentsused, the combinations of sounds and the technique. In the ‘Psycho’ example I referredto earlier, violins and strings were used in a staccato, screechingmanner. The violin is powerful becauseit can be played to sound like the human voice - in this piece the screechingviolins reflect primal screams of fear. Thetension between notes (known as ‘intervals) can also be used. In ‘Jaws’ the music used to indicate theshark approaching included a musical interval known as a minor second. The relationship between the two notes playedis a close and tense, and is often used to paint sinister and dark soundscapes(I will write more about the psychological effect of musical intervals inanother article). Musical expectancy has a profound effect on mind,body and emotions - but why is thisimportant to a sound therapist and how can we create this effect? Why is thisimportant to a sound therapist? There is evidence to show that positive state of mind has a hugeimpact on our overall health and wellbeing and contributes to not onlymanagement of symptoms but also to a quicker recovery (Lamers. et al.2012). In the BAST method of soundtherapy we work with a client’s belief about their symptoms rather than justwith the symptom alone. We don’t justdeal with symptoms and health conditions but also with the ‘stuff’ of life,such as bereavement, relationship, career and family problems – basicallyanything that a person considers is preventing them from living a life full offlow, potential and positivity. Once the therapist has spoken to a client about their symptomsand/or situation, they will create a musical ‘score’ to suit the client’sindividual needs. They will then use specifictechniques to help a person to achieve a deeply relaxed state, known as an AlteredState of Consciousness (ASC). In thisstate a person is more open to exploring the different levels of theirconsciousness as well as their current state of health and well-being (LINK TOTHE METHOD HERE). The therapist also usesmusical expectancy to stretch a person who has little flexibility to createfeelings of joy, to reflect sadness or longing, to thrill and excite as well asto work with mild-moderate anxiety and depression. How is itapplied in Sound Therapy? An experienced sound therapist will know which instruments andtechniques to use for certain symptoms/situations as well as how to play tocreate different emotional spaces. A change of loudness, broadening of the frequencyrange, an increase of the number of instruments used and/or a change ofproperties such as texture, melody and a minor key can all enhance expectancyand can create frisson. If a client has a lack of flexibilityin their body the therapist will use sounds that encourage flexibility - so ifthey are using a gong, for example, they will spend some time during thetreatment playing slow undulating rhythmic which gently increase in volume andintensity - this ‘stretching’ effect can be delicious and exciting. If using the crystal bowls, a therapist maymove from a minor second to an octave, tightening and loosening thetension. This sonic ‘petrissage’ worksreally well, but needs to be used with care, skill and sensitivity. Percussion canalso create frisson and expectancy – in a sound therapy session we use rainsticksand different textures of shaker that overlap and build in intensity at the endof the session. These instruments notonly help a person to come back from an ASC into a more alert and aware state,but also end the treatment in an exciting, dramatic and pleasurable way. Thatsaid, the a person has to their sound therapy treatment may not always bepleasurable. Any resistance to any sound, technique or instrument is explored usinga reflective process known as ‘The ‘5Rs’ Method of Experiential Processing’(Cooper, Sax). This is a reflectivemethod where people are supported to learn more about themselves through theexploration of what they don’t like, which can be very revealing, enhancingself-awareness. How can I use musical expectancyin my daily life? To lift your spirits choose any music that gives you goose bumps. Create a mix of these on your iPod or Spotifyto play when you are feeling down. Dancemusic – especially trance, has properties which create expectancy with rise andfall in pitch, volume and beat. A skilled DJ will use this effect to whip theaudience into glow-stick heaven! If youneed to inject some joy into your life find something that rises up and up witha beat of approximately 120bps as this will stimulate the system. As good piece that I use in my classes toillustrate musical expectancy is ‘Locked out of Heaven’ by Bruno Mars(LINK). Pay particular attention to the part from ‘and your sex takes me to paradise’through the chorus to the next verse. You will hear a rise in pitch over the background which keeps goinghigher, there will be an increase in the number of instruments used and astronger beat which builds and then drops off. For bespoke treatment using musical expectancy you can always comefor a sound therapy treatment. Contactus to find a therapist in your area – make sure they use the BAST method ofsound therapy. I hope you have enjoyed this article – for more information onsound therapy training, please email us (see below). Bibliography Blood, A & Zatorre, R (2001) Intenselypleasurable responses to music correlate with activity in brain regionsimplicated in reward and emotion Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Sep 2598(20): 11818–11823. PMCID: PMC58814 Psychology Huron, D. (2006) Sweet Anticipation: Music andthe Psychology of Expectation. MIT Press: London Lamers, S.M.A.,Bolier, L., Westerhof, G.J. et al. J Behav Med (2012) 35: 538.doi:10.1007/s10865-011-9379-8 doi: 10.1073/pnas.191355898 Please visit my website for more information or email me

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