Musical Fingerprints - David Hargreaves
Based on Professor David Hargreaves' talk at TEDxWarwick 2011
Do you have a song that can lift your mood? Or a song that reminds you of a certain event? Music has always been known for its power to alter our emotions and impact our memories, but why is this? Professor David Hargreaves, psychologist and keen musician, explains in his TEDxWarwick talk that developments in music psychology have begun to unlock the reasons and patterns behind our particular music tastes.
“Music is incredibly powerful stuff” says Professor David Hargreaves. “It has very strong effects on our lives: we all have views about our likes and dislikes. I only remember one person who said they didn’t like music.”
The power ballad by singer Michael Bolton, 'When I’m back on my feet again', pulled him through and stopped him from killing himself.
Music can have great power over our emotions. An example Hargreaves gave was of a former Royal Navy sailor, with two failed marriages, who had his £20,000 payout stolen by a conman. The power ballad by singer Michael Bolton, 'When I’m back on my feet again', pulled him through and stopped him from killing himself. There are, according to Hargreaves’ research, lots of evidence of that kind of phenomenon.
1. Musical networks – we perceive the world of music in different ways according to our particular interests and preferred genres.
2. Cultural networks – the way we react to music will depend on the situation we are in. The ‘musical fit’ concept shows that certain music fits certain situations. Music played during an aerobics class will be very different from that played in an antique furniture store. Rather than Britney Spears or Lady Gaga, the store owner will play Vivaldi or Bach.
3. Personal musical network – we all have a personal inner music library (PIML) which develops throughout our lifetime. We recognise new pieces of music according to our PIMLs.
What’s next in the field of music psychology? In the 1960s the field of psycholinguistics became popular. It looked at how we acquire and use language using a complex symbol system. In the noughties music psychologists are applying this theory towards music. We shall have to wait and see, says Hargreaves, how their research pans out.
David Hargreaves is Professor of Education, Froebel Research Fellow, and Co-Director of the Applied Music Research Centre in the School of Education, and has previously held posts in Schools of Psychology and Education at the Universities of Leicester, Durham and the Open University. He is also Visiting Professor of Research in Music Education at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, and Visiting Professor at the Inter-University Institute of Macau.
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