We all know it without having to read the multitudinous studies: music affects us.
How it affects us isn’t always obvious—and that’s where the science comes in.
Music is processed by many areas of the brain simultaneously, which is why our reactions are so complex: as disparate as the motor cortex for movement to the amygdala for emotional responses.
There is no “good” music or “bad” music (contrary to what your teenager might say); its effect on an individual is as unique as the person herself. The seeming paradox is that music is both unique and universal.
Happy/Sad Music Affects Our Perception.
Some reactions to music aren’t subjective; after listening to an excerpt of happy or sad music, one study showed that responses to a neutral face were perceived as either happy or sad, depending on the music. The conclusion was that there is a definite “crossmodal nature of music and its ability to transfer emotion to visual modality”.
As for the emotional component of music, sometimes we feel it and sometimes only perceive it. The difference is that with a perceived emotion, we are more removed and can then appreciate the emotion without actually experiencing it:
“Emotion experienced by music has no direct danger or harm unlike the emotion experienced in everyday life. Therefore, we can even enjoy unpleasant emotion such as sadness. If we suffer from unpleasant emotion evoked through daily life, sad music might be helpful to alleviate negative emotion.”
When we truly feel music, well, you know what that’s like: we are taken to a place in our minds that change us in some way.