In June ’94, final-year undergraduate music student Ree Phillips of Kingston University completed a dissertation on ‘An Exploration of the Relationship between Music and Relaxation.’
She came up with some very interesting findings giving strength to the idea that music can have positive effects if used specifically for relaxation. Her questionnaire asked, “Do you think that music can be used as an aid to relaxation,” and ninety percent of respondents replied “Yes.” Another question, “If you were prescribed a piece of music by a doctor to listen to on a regular basis as an alternative to medication to aid relaxation, would you try it out?” was affirmed by 80% of the sample, showing that a surprising number of people now think that listing to music can be a form of complementary therapy in its own right.
Ree’s research included a pilot study to measure people’s heartbeat while they listened to various kinds of music. Her findings showed that music has a noticeable effect, and that music intended for relaxation does produce a positive result.
The graph shown on the right indicates the average heartbeat rate for those taking part in the study, measured first before any music was played, and then during the last minute of each of 11 four minute extracts. (The shorter the line, the better the result.) It can clearly be seen that the heartbeat rate fell significantly during Albinoni’s Adagio and the relaxation pieces at the end of the 45 minute listening session, and that two works tied in first place to produce the lowest heart-beat rate. The most relaxed response in the listeners was measured during a Symbiosis piece (the title track from Touching the Clouds) and a slow adagietto by Vivaldi.