Happy to share my first academic publication from the July issue of Music & Medicine! Article includes my work from UC San Diego on musical intensity and self-harming behaviors as well as 3 case studies illustrating how music can be used in life-preserving ways. Conducting this research was one of the most challenging and meaningful endeavors of my life, and I’m honored to see these individuals’ powerful stories shared.
In partial fulfillment of my graduate thesis, this poster represents the findings of my study conducted at the University of California, San Diego. Presented July 5, 2016 at the 14th International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition in San Francisco.
For full study, see chapter 2 of my thesis.
For PDF, see HERELD poster ICMPC.
Prior research associates listening to heavy music with reduced suicide risk, especially among teenage girls when utilized for vicarious release. Nevertheless, few studies consider the active use of heavy music in self-regulation for those who suffer from thoughts of self-harm and/or mental illness. In order to to better understand the mechanisms by which engaging with heavy and intense music may circumvent self-harming behavior, a pilot study is presented of 283 subjects. The majority of those surveyed report suffering from thoughts of self-harm or mental disorders. To examine the use of affect regulation via both generic (non-specified) and heavy, intense, and highly emotive music, we created the Music in Affect Regulation Questionnaire (MARQ), utilizing music in mood regulation (MMR) strategies from the work of Saarikallio. We identify heavy music by the presence of capacious, distorted riffs; loud, pervasive percussion; or an overall feeling of ‘raw power,’ emotion, and affective intensity stemming from the instrumental or vocal parts. Our findings collectively show that heavy music listeners (and those who have thoughts of self-harm, in particular) interact with definitively heavy, intense, or highly emotive music differently than with generic music, especially in the use of modulating negative mood. These findings seem less related to genre-specific categories than certain musical commonalities collectively understood as intensity, and provide significant evidence for heavy music’s ability to circumvent self-destructive impulses, especially when applied in tandem with specific listening strategies of affect-regulation. Additional evidence from prior case studies further suggests the value of deeper investigation of the conscientious use of heavy music as a potential intervention for those suffering from affect dysregulation and self-harm.
Mental Illness 2015 Jun 18;7(1):5784
The change of music preferences following the onset of a mental disorder
Gebhardt S (1), von Georgi R (2)
1 Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University of Marburg, Germany; 2 Department of Music Science and Music Education, University of Giessen, Germany ; International Psychoanalytic University of Berlin, Germany
A psychiatric population (n=123) was examined on how music preferences had changed after the onset of a mental disorder. Most patients did not change their previous music preference; this group of patients considered music helpful for their mental state, showed more attractivity and enforcement as personality traits and used music more for emotion modulation. Patients who experienced a preference shift reported that music had impaired them during the time of illness; these patients showed less ego-strength, less confidence and less enforcement and used music less for arousal modulation. A third subgroup stopped listening to music completely after the onset of the mental disorder; these patients attribute less importance to music and also reported that music had impaired their mental state. They showed more ego-strength and used music less for emotion modulation. The results suggest that the use of music in everyday life can be helpful as an emotion modulation strategy. However, some patients might need instructions on how to use music in a functional way and not a dysfunctional one. Psychiatrists and psychotherapists as well as music therapists should be aware of emotion modulation strategies, subjective valence of music and personality traits of their patients. Due to the ubiquity of music, psychoeducative instructions on how to use music in everyday life plays an increasing role in the treatment of mental illness.
Una popolazione psichiatrica di 123 persone è stata esaminata per indagare il modo in cui le loro preferenze musicali sono cambiate dopo l’insorgenza della patologia mentale. La maggior parte dei pazienti considerava la musica di aiuto al proprio stato mentale, mostravano più tratti di personalità di attrattività e applicazione, usavano la musica soprattutto per la modulazione delle emozioni. I pazienti che sperimentavano un cambiamento delle preferenze riportavano che la musica li aveva in qualche modo toccati negativamente nel momento della malattia. Questi pazienti riportavano minore autostima e fiducia e usavano meno la musica per la modulazione delle emozioni. Il terzo gruppo riferiva di aver interrotto l’ascolto della musica dopo l’inizio della malattia mentale e attribuivano meno importanza alla musica che a loro avviso aveva influenzato negativamente lo stato mentale. I risultati suggeriscono che l’uso della musica nella vita di tutti i giorni possa essere utile come strategia di modulazione delle emozioni. In ogni caso, alcuni pazienti necessitano di essere indirizzati sul modo in cui devono usare la musica in un modo funzionale e non disfunzionale. Gli psichiatri e gli psicoterapisti così come i musicoterapisti dovrebbero essere informati circa le strategie di controllo e modulazione delle emozioni, della valenza soggettiva della musica e dei tratti della personalità dei loro pazienti. Dal momento che la musica è ubiquitaria, una guida psicoeducativa su come utilizzarla è sempre più necessaria per il trattamento delle patologie psichiatriche.
For full article, please visit NCBI online.
Gebhardt, S., & von Georgi, R. (2015). The Change of Music Preferences Following the Onset of a Mental Disorder. Mental Illness, 7(1), 5784. doi:10.4081/mi.2015.5784
Springfest 2015: UCSD Music Festival Premiers Live Performance Art, Synthesizer Petting Zoo, Music Psychology Panel and More
Springfest 2015 is the annual showcase of UC San Diego Department of Music’s emerging composers, instrumentalists, and electronic musicians. From April 7-11, concerts will take place every afternoon and night at the Conrad Prebys Music Center and on April 7th and 9th at The Loft (UCSD). On April 19th, Springfest travels to the Birch Aquarium for their annual Immersion event.
Since its founding in the late 1960s, the UCSD Department of Music has been a world leader in experimental music of all stripes, boldly charting the future of jazz, classical, multimedia, and electronic music genres.
SpringFest 2015 begins April 7th at 7:30pm at The Loft (UCSD) with improvisations and new compositions and innovative jazz works. From April 8th through April 11th, there will be two to four performances daily at the Conrad Prebys Music Center featuring masterworks of the late 20th century concert repertoire by Kurtag, Lang, Reich, Scelsi, and Stockhausen, music by UC San Diego’s very own alums Nicholas Deyoe and Edward Hamel, small group improvisation at the aggressive fringe of jazz and popular music, and unprecedented alloys of performance art, sound and media, including investigations of music of the speaking voice (4/9), the experience of motion through music (4/10) and the collision of music and theater (4/11). On April 11th, Springfest hosts an interactive “synthesizer petting zoo,” where audiences can get their hands on the Audio Electronics Club’s handmade music hardware and software, synthesizers, and effects processors.
Reprising last year’s spotlight event, an immersive walk-through concert/installation at Birch Aquarium in La Jolla on April 19th, will feature live performances spread throughout the aquarium including Gavin Bryars’ Sinking of the Titanic, a Gamelan Ensemble, sound installations by Tina Tallon, Nicolee Kuester, Jon Forshee, and Tommy Babin, and SEA SOAR and short films by Lyndsay Ellis Bloom with sound design by Caroline Louise Miller. $10 Discounted admission ($8 for UCSD students) for the entire aquarium.
New this year, Springfest will host its first ever panel discussion on the culture of music and affect, From Fragile to Plastique: Confronting the Culture of Music and Affect, curated by Diana Hereld. Additionally, this event includes exploring alternate models for sound presentation, Celeste Oram’s Microventions, 60 second mini-concerts, and Curt Miller and Nichole Speciale presenting two viewings of their sound installation, Polyester.
Admission to all Springfest events on campus are free of charge.
For full event calendar, visit http://ucsdmusic.blogspot.com/
Chill-inducing music enhances altruism in humans Frontiers in Psychology, published online October 2014
Fukui H, Toyoshima
Faculty of Education, Nara University of Education, Nara, Japan
Music is a universal feature of human cultures, and it has both fascinated and troubled many researchers. In this paper we show through the dictator game (DG) that an individual’s listening to preferred “chill-inducing” music may promote altruistic behavior that extends beyond the bounds of kin selection or reciprocal altruism. Participants were 22 undergraduate and postgraduate students who were divided into two groups, the in-group and the out-group, and they acted as dictators. The dictators listened to their own preferred “chill-inducing” music, to music they disliked, or to silence, and then played the DG. In this hypothetical experiment, the dictators were given real money (which they did not keep) and were asked to distribute it to the recipients, who were presented as stylized images of men and women displayed on a computer screen. The dictators played the DG both before and after listening to the music. Both male and female dictators gave more money after listening to their preferred music and less after listening to the music they disliked, whereas silence had no effect on the allocated amounts. The group to which the recipient belonged did not influence these trends. The results suggest that listening to preferred “chill-inducing” music promotes altruistic behavior.
Table 1 – Mean allocation of each stimuli.
And for our Italian friends:
La musica è una caratteristica universale tra gli esseri umani, che da anni affascina e intriga i ricercatori. In questo studio i ricercatori dimostrano, attraverso il gioco del dittatore (DG), che quando un individuo ascolta la sua musica preferita, quella che induce i brividi, viene spinto verso comportamenti altruistici che vanno al di là del clan di appartenenza o dell’altruismo reciproco. Hanno partecipato allo studio 22 giovani tra studenti e laureati divisi in due gruppi, il gruppo “interno” e il gruppo “esterno”, e agivano da dittatori. I dittatori ascoltavano musica di loro gradimento o musica che non gradivano, oppure silenzio, prima di agire da dittatori. In questo esperimento ai dittatori veniva dato denaro reale che non potevano però tenere, ma che dovevano distribuire ai riceventi, presentati come immagini stilizzate di uomini e donne sullo schermo di un computer. I dittatori giocavano al DG sia prima sia dopo avere ascolto la musica. Sia i dittatori uomini che donne elargivano più denaro dopo avere ascoltato la loro musica preferita e meno dopo avere ascoltato musica sgradita, mentre il silenzio non aveva alcun effetto sulle somme che venivano allocate. Il gruppo al quale il ricevente apparteneva non influenzava questo trend. Gli Autori concludono che l’ascolto della musica preferita incoraggia comportamenti altruistici.
|Fukui, H., & Toyoshima, K. (2014). Chill-inducing music enhances altruism in humans. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 1215. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01215|
For complete article, please see Frontiers in Psychology.
Editorial note: The views of the following statement contained in the full article, As is widely known, music has the ability to strongly affect a person’s emotions and sometimes even control them (Juslin and Sloboda, 2010),” does not necessarily represent the views of Pathways in Music.
Personal preferred ‘chill-inducing’ moment, in total recollection, occurs in the following piece, 3:32
Taruffi L, Koelsch S – Published October 20, 2014
Department of Educational Sciences & Psychology and Cluster of Excellence, “Languages of Emotion”, Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany
This study explores listeners’ experience of music-evoked sadness. Sadness is typically assumed to be undesirable and is therefore usually avoided in everyday life. Yet the question remains: Why do people seek and appreciate sadness in music? We present findings from an online survey with both Western and Eastern participants (N?=?772). The survey investigates the rewarding aspects of music-evoked sadness, as well as the relative contribution of listener characteristics and situational factors to the appreciation of sad music. The survey also examines the different principles through which sadness is evoked by music, and their interaction with personality traits.
Results show 4 different rewards of music-evoked sadness: reward of imagination, emotion regulation, empathy, and no “real-life” implications. Moreover, appreciation of sad music follows a mood-congruent fashion and is greater among individuals with high empathy and low emotional stability. Surprisingly, nostalgia rather than sadness is the most frequent emotion evoked by sad music. Correspondingly, memory was rated as the most important principle through which sadness is evoked. Finally, the trait empathy contributes to the evocation of sadness via contagion, appraisal, and by engaging social functions.
The present findings indicate that emotional responses to sad music are multifaceted, are modulated by empathy, and are linked with a multidimensional experience of pleasure. These results were corroborated by a follow-up survey on happy music, which indicated differences between the emotional experiences resulting from listening to sad versus happy music. This is the first comprehensive survey of music-evoked sadness, revealing that listening to sad music can lead to beneficial emotional effects such as regulation of negative emotion and mood as well as consolation. Such beneficial emotional effects constitute the prime motivations for engaging with sad music in everyday life.
And for our Italian friends:
Questo studio esplora l’esperienza della tristezza indotta dall’ascolto della musica. La tristezza è comunemente considerata un’emozione negativa e pertanto evitata nella vita quotidiana. Rimane una questione aperta: perché quindi le persone apprezzano la musica triste? Gli Autori presentano i risultati di uno studio condotto online che ha coinvolto 722 partecipanti occidentali e orientali. Lo studio indaga gli effetti gratificanti delle emozioni tristi evocate dalla musica, nonché l’apporto relativo alle caratteristiche dell’ascoltatore e alle situazioni che contribuiscono all’apprezzamento della musica triste. Lo studio esamina inoltre i differenti principi attraverso i quali la tristezza viene evocata dalla musica e la sua interazione con i tratti della personalità.
I risultati mostrano quattro diversi aspetti gratificanti della musica triste: l’effetto dell’immaginazione, la regolazione delle emozioni, l’empatia e l’assenza di implicazioni nella vita reale. Inoltre, l’apprezzamento della musica triste segue una modalità congruente con l’umore ed è più grande tra gli individui con maggiore empatia e minore stabilità emotiva. Sorprendentemente la nostalgia piuttosto che la tristezza è l’emozione più frequente evocata dalla musica triste. Di conseguenza, la memoria è stata valutata come il principio più importante attraverso il quale l’emozione viene evocata dalla musica triste. Infine, il tratto di empatia contribuisce all’evocazione della tristezza attraverso il contagio, l’apprezzamento e il coinvolgimento delle funzioni sociali. I presenti risultati indicano che la risposta emotiva alla musica triste è sfaccettata, modulata dall’empatia e collegata a una esperienza multidimensionale del piacere.
Questi risultati sono stati corroborati da una ricerca successiva sulla musica allegra, che mostra differenze tra le esperienze emotive nell’ascolto di musica felice o triste. Questo è il primo studio comprensivo sulla tristezza evocata dalla musica, e rivela che l’ascolto della musica triste può portare benefici emotivi come la regolazione delle emozioni negative e dell’umore, oltre che della consolazione. Questi benefici emozionali costituiscono una ragione per ascoltare la musica triste durante la vita quotidiana.
Information provided by abstract – full study may be found here.
(My favorite ‘sad’ video of all time below).
A couple of months ago, I was asked by To Write Love On Her Arms to do a post on my experience with depression, music, and being a suicide survivor.
This is my story.
For as long as I can remember, my greatest aspiration has been to study psychological resilience and music. Having begun touring as a singer from age three, my furthermost joy and identity were formed in creating and performing music. As I attempt to place these thoughts in tangible form, I’d like to explain where the past year of my life has taken me, and how this hope has finally come to be realized. I’d like to tell you how music saved my life.
On July 9, 2013, I grabbed sushi with a dear friend from college. It had been at least a year since we’d seen one another due to his relocation to another state. We had a wonderful dinner, his charisma weaving grandiose patterns of laughter and jokes to make up for lost time. To this day, he remains the only friend who could ever get away with his hysterical manner of picking me up and spinning me around. It was simply his way of saying “Hello.”
The following afternoon, as I was on my way to Stanford University to cover a behavioral science and creativity conference, I received an urgent phone call from the Los Angeles Police Department. After an inundation of bewildering questions and the request that I be sitting down, I was alerted that my friend had sustained a perplexing and potentially fatal injury. The following two months would consist of a blur of countless ER, ICU and eventually hospice visits, and even more fatigued phone calls from detectives, friends, and families in attempt to speculate every detail as to my friend’s condition. After failing to regain consciousness, my friend died on August 21, 2013 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. He was twenty-seven.
In the months following my friend’s suicide, the protracted plagues of devastation, anxiety and sheer panic made it painfully clear that I was suffering from severe depression. I had battled fear before, but the danger of self-harm from my perceived terror of abandonment now hit an all-time high. Something about being the last person to see my friend before he took his life had finally made my very existence seemingly unbearable. I simply couldn’t imagine a reality where I would ever feel whole again. Somewhere along the way, however, something began to penetrate the walls I had built. Maybe it was that night of such unbearable emptiness, resulting in my frantic request of a trusted friend, “Why can’t you just tell me it’s going to be okay?” I’ll never forget his response: “Because it’s going to be okay whether I say so or not.”
For possibly the first time, I realized that no matter how much people love and cherish you, sometimes, they can’t be there. It was not until this year – twenty eight years into my life – that I was truly faced with the chief insecurity of uncovering and confronting my own sense of self. It hit me then: I had built my entire value solely upon the affirmation of others. How would I ever afford unconditional love and hope if I did not possess it for myself? It took more correspondence with prudent souls, more star-filled nights, more floods of tears and more compassionate, tough love from friends than I ever thought possible, but eventually, I began to understand that a lifetime’s lacking of my own self worth had been, in fact, the greatest torment of all. Slowly, with the help of my music and a lot of blind faith, I decidedly began the harrowing task of turning inward to face a past that had hidden profoundly in the dark for far too long.
As I discovered that in music could be found the tools for defense, it quickly became all but Pavlovian. With each resurfacing memory of the loss of my father, of my friend, or even the type of violations that I as a young woman should never have had to endure, it began to feel like there was no margin in what could be taken from me, save my headphones screaming louder than any external threat or captor. I recalled that when at age eighteen I witnessed a childhood crush lose his longstanding battle with cancer, a piano, and occasionally present kindred spirit, taught me that three keys struck within a proper distance could form a chord. Those chords at once revealed the earliest potential of more than an escape – they provided the will to keep going. It was within the process of witnessing my own hopelessness slain by the dogged determination playing before me like a vivid, striking film sequence that I cemented an acute desire to help others through their pain.
It was not quite until really digging in to the psychology of music that I found the possibility of a way not to dull the pain, but utilize it for courage. When my collapsed sense of self risked self-harm, gentle souls appeared to remind me of what I’d already overcome. When the radiant pangs of feeling alone threatened to overtake me, I discovered mercy and anticipation in composing. When I found myself paralyzed by the searing agony of depression, exterior melodies stepped in to share my burden. This award of music had not only provided oxygen for my lungs; it had yielded a powerful breed of strength and beauty within me – the will to struggle, and the will to survive.
While covering a music industry event in Hollywood this Spring, I had the pleasure of speaking to Benjamin Weinman of The Dillinger Escape Plan. As a friend had alerted me of Ben’s advocacy for youth suicide prevention (The You Rock Foundation in particular), I took the opportunity to ask him what it was about the process of creating music that had helped him in overcoming adversity.
“When I was growing up, I had a lot of difficulties in school. I had certain learning disabilities that made it difficult for me to process information in the way it was presented by a typical school curriculum. My experiences left me feeling extremely isolated and insecure. When I started playing music, I realized that intelligence had nothing to do with one’s ability to excel in the classroom environment. It gave me passion. It gave me confidence. I was able to make friends and also figure out new ways of learning. Creating give me purpose every day and will for the rest of my life… Music saved my life.”
Like Ben, I never cease to be amazed at music’s capacity to bring about a mental resilience. I know music to be a healing tool, because we are living attestations. It is utterly apparent that the pleasure of simply working in music sustained me through my more anguished, desperate moments. In The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis stated “No one ever told me grief felt so like fear.” In Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton said “The only courage worth calling courage must necessarily mean that the soul passes a breaking point and does not break.” I have felt this terror, and desperation – but I have also perceived the call of this courage.
A little over a year ago, I got the call about my friend. Over three hundred and sixty five days have passed since the night I thankfully had the cheek to gleefully yelp “Love you, buddy!” after my friend as he walked away; one hand in the air like an old fashioned movie star. Over the past twelve months, I have been granted more exposure to trauma, mental illness and mercy than I’d ever imagined possible. I have been made aware of more triggers in my subconscious than I felt I could handle, and I have been forced to confront them head on. I’ve loved and lost more deeply, and written more music than ever before. I’ve applied to, and received a full fellowship to attend my top choice grad school for music and psychological resilience beginning this month. My friends have become my family; my songs that rare blend of confidant and hope. Though I have feared the dangers of losing emotional jurisdiction over my own life the most, I have realized that sometimes, it’s okay to let go, and press on – even when the route is unclear. As Bukowski famously quoted “As the spirit wanes, the form appears.”
Not a day goes by that I don’t think of my friend. He touched the lives of so many, and I can only pray that I will one day repay him by giving back the selfless love he radiated to everyone around him, and by furthering the cause to ease the hearts of those struggling to find hope.
I want to tell you, dear reader, that regardless of the tactless tragedies or inconsolable madness you may be undergoing, there are others. It’s not just that you are not alone – of course you’re not. You are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses, a humanity of enduring creatures, and an enclave of people who not only want to understand, but do understand. As unimaginable as it might sound at times, there is so much love to be found. If you’re standing on the beach at sunset, savor it while it lasts. If you’re going through hell, keep going. The impermanence and temporal nature of existence only contribute to its need to be treasured. For me, it has been my faith in God, and the self-awareness, hope and love I have found and tried to share though music. In the end, it is very possible that only we can save ourselves, but it is often the intrinsic beauty of life and dear ones surrounding that offer the priceless reminder that we can, and should. In the profound words of author Jennifer Hect, “We are indebted to one another and that debt is a kind of faith — a beautiful, difficult, strange faith. We believe each other into being.” Please stay, and please keep going. You can make it though, and it will be more radiant and precious than anything you can possibly imagine.
To those who have sustained me through the darkest and brightest of times:
As I continue to research the neurology of self-destructive behaviors and the psychological interventions that might be employed via music, I can only convey my infinite gratitude for whatever role, small or gargantuan; you have played in my life. I love you all. And thank you for the music.
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts, please visit the Suicide Prevention Lifeline or call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
For more information on what The You Rock Foundation is doing to help youth overcome depression, follow them on FB and stay tuned for their official launch at http://www.yourockfoundation.org . Follow them on social media here –
UCSD, Temporal Dynamics of Learning Center Launch Convergence 2014: A Multidisciplinary Dialogue on Music
The Temporal Dynamics of Learning Center and the Department of Music at UC San Diego, in collaboration with Mozart and the Mind present:
Convergence: A Multidisciplinary Dialogue on Music
A unique symposium that brings together multiple streams of music research and knowledge, Convergence is not only a platform for interdisciplinary dialogue but also an opportunity for collaboration. Neuroscientists, psychologists, cognitive scientists, musicologists, ethnomusicologists, composers, performers, and music therapists will participate in a series of panel discussions moderated by music researchers from the Temporal Damics of Learning Center. This multidisciplinary dialogue will extend into an evening poster session.
Sunday, May 18, 2014, 8am to 7pm
Conrad Prebys Music Center, Room127, UC San Diego
Map and directions to Conrad Prebys Music Center (CPMC)
For further information, registration, or webcast registration, please visit:
Registration: $45 general, $15 student
David Borgo, Diana Deutsch, Dane Harwood, Carl Hermanns, Mari Jones, Layne Kalbfleisch, Lei Liang, Andy McGraw, Gabriella Mussachia, Roger Reynolds, Katharina Rosenberger, Michael Thaut, Concetta Tomaino
Information provided by the UCSD Press Room
If you know me, you know I wholeheartedly believe in the power of music. You may also know that in some cases and practices of music therapy, I remain the skeptic, and try to retain a critical lens. Simply put, music doesn’t always heal. Ah, but when it does.
For the third anniversary of the great earthquake in Eastern Japan, a group of Japanese animators have come together for a relief project.
Founded in 2012, the Zapuni LLC organization unites Japanese artists and musicians to work together on various projects in order to raise awareness and money for general aid. Set to Sade’s Grammy nominated song By Your Side, this animated video tells the story of a rabbit and bear who lose a friend in the earthquake, and how music acts as a healing agent in helping them come to terms with their loss. I have found this video incredibly powerful, and hope you will too.
Directed by Tsuneo Goda, it has been created by the stop-motion animation company Dwarf for children’s charity Soma Children’s Orchestra and Chorus which has been inspired by El Sistima, and uses music therapy to help children who have been emotionally and psychologically traumatised by the disaster.
If you wish to donate to the cause, funds attained will be used for instruments, teaching and classes.
Photo and info courtesy of http://www.designweek.co.uk