Music rocks more after mindfulness meditation

Mindfulness meditation helps us "feel" the music better

Girl with headphones
Mindfulness meditation enhances our experience of listening to music

Frank Diaz, a professor in the UO School of Music and Dance, is investigating how mindfulness meditation may boost both music engagement and performance.

In his study appearing online ahead of publication in the journal Psychology of Music, he describes how students after listening to a 15-minute recording of a segment produced by the Duke University Center for Mindfulness Research were more engaged with a 10-minute excerpt of Giacomo Puccini's opera "La Boheme". Mindfulness is an age-old practice that assists in directing a person's consciousness into the present. In this study, listeners were prompted to focus on physical sensations or their breathing if their attention drifted.

The engagement with music was measured with two parameters: aesthetic response and flow. Aesthetic response is the emotional high that we derive from the music. Flow is the effortless oneness with the music, being “in the zone” with the music.

The 132 participants were divided into four group. “Meditative” participants whose aesthetic response would be measured, “Meditative” participants whose flow would be measured, “Non-meditative” participants whose aesthetic response would be measured, and “Non-meditative” participants whose flow would be measured.

Real time responses while listening to music were measured using a device allows subjects to turn a dial, rather than speaking, in response to how music moves them as they listen. And, the dial's movement are recorded.

Overall, 97 percent of the participants felt engagement with the music—either through one or more moments of flow or aesthetic response. Of the 69 participants who underwent mindfulness meditation prior to the music test, 64 percent believed that the meditative technique had enhanced their listening experience.

However, the device showed more engagement than the participants believed they had.

The study, Diaz said, has potential ramifications for music education. "Attention can be modified," he said. "It doesn't have to be done chemically or by changing the environment. Human beings have the capacity to learn to self-regulate their attention, and when you do that it increases the quality of typical, everyday experiences. Listening to music mindfully can be a powerful way of increasing your quality of life. We really found significant increases in the participants' aesthetic and flow experience. Some were intense. They were really in the zone."

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