Academic journal article Indian Journal of Positive Psychology

Effects of Intense Musical Experience on Way of Life

Academic journal article Indian Journal of Positive Psychology

Effects of Intense Musical Experience on Way of Life

Article excerpt

Empirical studies on understanding the functions of music have been heterogeneous. Some studied its role in development, formation of social identity, personality. Others were concerned with its interaction with cognitive psychology or its relevance in culture. Some others were motivated to identify the number of ways in which music is used in everyday life (Chamorro-Premuzic & Furnham, 2007; Boer, 2009; Lonsdale & North, 2011; Packer & Ballantyne, 2011; Schäfer, Sedlmeier, Stadtler, & Huron, 2013; Schäfer, 2016). Thus, it may serve variety of purposes in an individual's life. Music moves an individual and evokes variety of emotions in him/her. Certain emotional responses are believed to be of personal significance and leave an imprint impacting the way of life.

After surveying various poetic, theological and biographical writings for the ways in which individuals reported experiencing God, William James (1902) came up with a particular subclass called as the "mystical state". He listed down four characteristics of these states that were different from states of normal consciousness. Abraham Maslow was one of the first to understand these intense and mystical experiences in a psychological way. He introduced the term peak experience (Singer, 2000; Whaley, Sloboda, & Gabrielsson, 2009). Maslow (1964-1971) accepted James's descriptive criteria as adequate characterization of peak experience. James (1902) called these experiences as ineffable, having a noetic quality, transient and passive in nature.

Peak experiences are meaningful, enriching and fulfilling experiences that have a deep seated impact on the experiencing individual. Leach (1962) formally defined peak experiences as: Highly valued experience characterized by such intensity of perception, depth of feelings, or sense of significance that it stands out in the subject's mind, in more or less permanent contrast to the experiences that surround it in time and space.

Because of the surreal and extraordinary quality of peak experiences, Maslow initially felt that people having such experiences are in a state of self actualization, that they are healthy and self fulfilled (1964). Maslow (1962) isolated sixteen aftereffects of the peak experiences, the person feels:

* More integrated and unified

* At one with the world

* As if he was at the peak of his powers

* Graceful

* Creative, responsible, poised

* Free of inhibitions, self criticism

* Spontaneous, innocent

* Creative, flexible

* Unique

* Free of past and future limits

* Free ofthe world, "free to be"

* Unmotivated, beyond needs

* Poetic

* Consumed, subjectively final

* Playful, child-like

* Grateful

He found that peak experiences can be activated by a variety of triggers- "any experience of real excellence, of real perfection, of any moving towards the perfectjustices or towards perfect values" (Maslow, 1964-1971) yet, sex and music are the most frequent and common ways.

Lowis (2003) found music to be the most frequent trigger for peak experiences. In another study, he found that individuals who scored high on musical involvement (participants who either played an instrument, sang or otherwise engaged in musical activities at a deeper level) were more likely to experience peaks than those who were less musically involved (Lowis, 2002).

Gabrielsson (2001- 2011) asked for the "strongest, most intense experience of the music" from his participants and classified the statements into seven categories: general characteristics, physical reactions and behaviors, perceptions, cognition, feeling and emotions, personal and social aspects and existential and transcendental aspects. The last two categories had indications of potential long term effects of strong experiences with music.

Peak experience was also discussed in the context of flow experiences among music teachers and students who had envisioned flow "as a short-term peak experience characterized by absorption, work enjoyment and intrinsic work motivation" (Bakker, 2005). …

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