We’ve all experienced that feeling when a song comes on the radio that pulls on those teenage heartstrings and triggers memories and emotions from days of reckless abandon. The reason for this is that memories and familiar music from your adolescent years are integrated in a small part of our brain called the medial prefrontal cortex.
Teenage years are vital to self-discovery and filled with lots of emotional charge, which tend to be remembered better because of the arousal hormones released meaning that the two become strongly intertwined and stay with you for longer.
Suspense is key to emotional response
You know that intense feeling you get when the beat is about to drop or just before your favourite final chorus? That’s music being suspenseful on purpose. Music is tricky and musicians can manipulate it to make sure your emotions fluctuate throughout a track.
The theme from 2001 A Space Odyssey, Sprach Zarathustra, uses musical suspense perfectly. It teasingly leads to its peak but takes a lifetime to actually reach it – getting there quickly wouldn’t be nearly as gratifying or powerful as it is with so many delayed promises and violations of your expectations.
If you’re feeling underwhelmed or and want to be fully alert and focused, listen to something with a fast tempo and driving rhythm – this will get your heart beating faster and have you ‘pumped up’ in no time.
Similarly, lyrics can help achieve a certain mental state, ultimately making you more confident, focused and tough! Eminem’s ‘Till I Collapse, Queen’s We are the Champions or The Black Keys Lonely Boy are all perfect tracks to get you in that headspace.
Dr Nikki Rickard is the Program Director of Psychology at Swinburne Online and current President of the Australian Music and Psychology Society. Dr Rickard was awarded her PhD from La Trobe University in 1995 and began her academic career at Monash University in 1996.