Part II – Concentration
A study from the University of Stirling revealed that playing quiet classical music during a recorded lecture ‘improved the learning’ of the class. There are a number of reasons behind this, namely, the use of particular music has the potential to amplify the emotions of individuals, increasing receptivity to information through promoting a positive emotional state. As Neuroscientist Dean Burnett has noted ‘The right music can hit the sweet spot between predictable and chaotic for which the brain has a strong preference.’ It is within this ‘sweet spot’, that an emotional spike can be created.
Furthermore, sounds, from a low level hum, to a structured minimal house track, have been shown to occupy part of the brain and distract ‘thought patterns’ within individuals. This promotes further likelihood of unbridled concentration, allowing focus performance to be peaked from what Professor Cal Newport has termed ‘Deep Work’. But, on the micro level- it’s all vibrations. Who would have thought that stimulating the ears, those tiny vestibules of sound, could morph the body into a machine of efficiency and pleasure.
Researcher D.M. Kiger noted back in 1989 the effects of various music styles. One particular classroom experiment took place, where a highly repetitive piece of music was compared with a dissonant, rhythmically varied piece whilst students read. The results showed that reading scores were higher in the repetitive, structured music style than in the other conditions, including silence. Yet, here’s the thing- some people loathe the idea of music whilst they work. Everybody is different, and what works for some, certainly doesn’t work for others. The scientific basis for music and concentration is however an interesting phenomenon.
It certainly gives greater clarity to my own experience. Throughout my time at university, I would play Selected Ambient Works 1985-1992 by Apex Twin religiously every time I would pull of an all-nighter. It’s simple structure, soft synths and rolling baselines acted as the ideal metronome for me to read hundreds of pages and hammer out many more. It worked for me, and it sure as hell works for all manner of athletes who need to quiet their ‘monkey mind’ in order to complete gruelling training sessions where mental strength is a priority. Or, on the contrary, music’s utilisation in certain African tribes to pull attendees into a trance. A side note – where do you think they got the name for ‘Trance’ music. Within this bizarre mental zone, thoughts are quelled, leaving the potential for information retention at a high. It is a wonderful feeling, to literally feel the power of music.
The next time you need to focus, try the music of Chaos in the CBD, or some early Apex Twin, to aid in your folly.