From The Hawkes Library; affiliated with

Download pdf version

The Impact of Music

The outline of a twelve part lecture series designed for, and presented within, the Music Faculty of the University of Melbourne as part of its 'breadth' subject offerings.

26/5/09 Jon Hawkes <email> <web>

Making music is a universal and essential aspect of human life. Through making music together we learn to be and to enjoy being social animals. We experience the pleasure of collaboration and apply it with positive expectations in the rest of our lives.

From the first moment that we encounter another human (some would say from before), we are surrounded by music. It shapes our lives, expresses and affects our moods, our energy, our memories, our values, our identities, our relationships, and our health.

Everyone with an interest in affecting the behaviour of their fellows has included music in their quiver: religious and political movements, educators and the advertising industry. All have recognised the power that music has to affect us.

This twelve part series explores the many ways in which humans use and are affected by music.



Segue IN


Segue OUT


Music makes the world go round

The power of music

What music 'is'; what its value to human development may be

Are we human without music


Made to be Musical: the biological imperative

We are what we are because of the music

What we know about the neural and physiological impacts; how they make us feel; various speculations about why it makes us feel the way it does.

Evolution, adaptation & exaptation; biology & culture; phylogeny and ontogeny; music as mental & physical activity; neurotransmitters & the brain's reward system; neuroplasticity & growing synaptic pathways; movement & food

Being social improves our survival chances


All Together Now: the rhythm of life

There's a better chance of staying alive if you're with a mob

The entwining of music and social behaviour

Connection, collaboration & 'groupishness'; multi-level selection & mirror neurons; shared intentionality; social cohesion & bonding; ritual & consolidating tradition; the reward side of the social contract

Social fluency requires good timing


Marking Time: navigating the fourth dimension

Knowing the time will get you places

Rhythm & entrainment

Patterns, prediction, expectation & anticipation; measuring time; the groove, syncopative frisson; memory; learning of & through music

Embodying patterns induces trance


Naturally High: at one with the music

When you're in the groove, you're somewhere else

Bliss, peaks, trance and blinding white light

Spirituality & transcendence, jouissance; worship & celebration

In a blissful state one often imagines one knows what it all means


Can't Argue With the Music: the medium is the message

I'm so high, I can see for miles

Insight, values, identity & culture

Illumination, revelation & ineffability; harmony & balance; biological basis of values; making meaning, memes, honest signals, messages, language, & communication

One can be struck dumb when faced with meaning


The World is Sound: listen to the universe

The 'wow' factor

Framing chaos; beauty, creativity & the buzzing cosmos

Aesthetics, the religious impulse, art, imagination & vibrations

Vibrations feed our bodies


The Music In You: stairway to heaven

The buzz that fills us

Emotions, feelings & mood

The affective medium; induction v perception; relaxation, energy & motivation; fear & courage, joy & grief, pain & pleasure; intention & resonance

How we feel impacts on our wellbeing


Feeling Fine: sonic rehabilitation

We're getting better all the time

Health & wellbeing

Therapy & rehabilitation; maintaining health; eudaimonia & salutogenesis

Expression is the inevitable consequence of robust health


Sound It Out: the rebel yell

When you're on top of the world, all you want to do is sing about it

Release & outburst; the echo factor

Letting it out doesn't (necessarily) mean one has a message

Occupying public space


Just Do It

Look at me, listen to me

Music in our world now

Making & showing off, public behaviour, improvisation, active listening, commerce & commodification

How to reclaim music's key functions


Use it

The power of music

What uses you make of music; what contribution you might personally make to the reclamation project

Go forth and musify


26/5/09 Jon Hawkes <email> <web>

From The Hawkes Library; affiliated with

Download pdf version

Return to top