Music and Consciousness

Can music alter consciousness? Can the brain be altered by music? Will the way I write be influenced by the kind of music I’m listening to while writing?

I’m listening to The Smile (Live at Montreux Jazz Festival, July 2022) whilst watching my consciousness. I can’t watch my brain but I can watch the state of my brain. You’d think that this kind of music would be Jazz, wouldn’t you; what with it being played at a Jazz Festival?

I’m conscious; that much I know. I’m conscious of the music. I’m conscious of the singer. I’m conscious that they are laying claim to my attention. I can filter the effects out so that I can think. I’m aware of the filter and the work it must do. It’s not difficult to apply a filter to this because it’s rhythmic and so largely predictable. I’m conscious of the fact that I’m avoiding the lyrics because they are more difficult to filter out. Lyrics and writing probably use similar parts of the brain. I’m pretty sure, though, that it’s not the section of the brain that’s responsible for consciousness. This is not Trance. This is not hypnagogic. This is not consciousness-altering.

The state of my brain is the basis of the state of my mind and the state of my mind is the basis of the state of my consciousness. I don’t know these things for sure, but it sure feels like I’m on the right track. My brain is receiving signals from my ears, but not all of my brain is being affected to the same extent. I’ve heard that one type of torture is to play a song over and over again at high volume over a long period of time to the person being tortured. I can’t imagine how that works. Surely the brain (or the mind (or the consciousness)) can filter out repetition. The fact that it has to indicates that the music has an effect on the brain (or some component thereof). I wonder what that effect is. Pleasant or unpleasant. If you wear goggles that turn your field of vision upside down the brain compensates and turns the field of vision the right way up. Remove those goggles and the brain again (for a while) sees the world upside down. I wonder what the brain does after the torturous music is stopped. This is not the kind of music a torturer could effectively use on me. It’s too nuanced. I can imagine it hurting my ears if played at high volume, though.

I have a style of writing. I write in short, punctuated bursts. I poke and push with my words. I try to use them to effect. I attempt to affect. I can feel myself doing this while this music is playing. That hasn’t been affected. In fact, it’s probably been enhanced due to having to fit my thoughts into the short gaps between the attention-grabbing effect of the music. It’s trying to take me away from you. I can choose to let it do that (and stop writing) or I can choose not to allow it to take me (and continue writing). If I had a brain deficit then I would not be able to think of the right words to say. I would stop. I am here, carrying on. The way I write is not affected. What is, however, affected is the subject matter of my writing. Not directly by the individual songs, but by the effort to examine my mind in the light of the auditory experience foisted on me by these powerful Bluetooth headphones (which used to be too heavy for my neck muscles but now feel comfortable). If I stop typing for even a short period of time my fingers start waving in the air to the beat and rhythm of the current song. Even if I don’t stop typing my head continues to bob up and down in time to beat (even though the beat is synchopated and variable (what with it being Jazz-esque). Oh, this one is nice. In fact all these songs are nice. This is the first time I’ve listen to this album. The Smile (the name of the band) is an offshoot of a band called Radiohead. I’m obsessing over Radiohead right now and so it feels quite natural for me to immerse myself in their (or their offshoot’s) music as I’m writing. I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t work if I tried to do this whist writing a dissertation, but it’s good for this. Oh, wait, I think the album (actually, it’s an EP) is done. The singer just said thank you. Well thank you too, Thom Yorke and you musical companions. And thank you (a different you) for reading this (if indeed you are).


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