A Swedish study released this week finds that the heart rates of those who sing together synch up quickly, in relationship to the tempo of the song. The study was published in Frontiers in Neuroscience. According to the abstract, “We show how song structure, respiration and HR are connected. Unison singing of regular song structures makes the hearts of the singers accelerate and decelerate simultaneously. Implications concerning the effect on wellbeing and health are discussed as well as the question how this inner entrainment may affect perception and behavior.”
The concept of entrainment is very familiar to music-thanatologists. While playing for people who are often unable to communicate with words, we follow the patient’s visible respirations during the music vigil. This provides an opportunity for the patient’s respirations and heart rate to move in relationship with the music being played on the harp or sung. Like the choir voices singing together, the music-thanatologist’s playing and the patient’s respirations and heart rate being to synch up, providing an opportunity for calm and relaxation.
This has always seemed quite intuitive to me. Although it sometimes seems strange or new to think of a harpist appearing in a hospital, I suspect that all of us have had the experience of listening to a piece of music for the sole purpose of changing our mood, and therefore our heart rates and respirations. Is there music you listen to for courage? For rest? For joy? Once you start listening, how soon can you feel the changes in your body?