Is sound any different?
Music is all around us. For most people, music is an everyday part of life; for some people who have headphones stuck in their ears 24-7 music is an all day everyday part of life. People listen to music in almost any environment imaginable - school, work, church, in the car, at clubs or dances, or even simply listening to it in the shower at home. Different kinds of people listen to different kinds of music at different times in the day or in their lives. Personally, I know that I have entertained myself with everything from rap to rock to reggae. My preferences are everchanging. A question I have, however, is why is music so influencial? I know from personal experience that I often listen to different genres of music based on my mood or my environment, and that different types of music can alter my mood.
The ability to hear is only one of our five senses: sight, taste, touch, smell, sound. However, when I am sad I don't go look at gloomy pictures, and when I am excited I don't try to breath in that feeling from the air. I am under the impression that this is true about most people, that generally the only sense that we directly corrolate with our emotions, at least on a regular basis, is sound. But why is this so? Why, in the course of history, did we begin to label music as happy, sad, frenetic, mellow, etc. whereas we generally label tastes and smells as sweet, sour, pungent, etc. It seems like is would be weird to call a smell happy, or a taste exciting, or say a rough surface felt angry. I think people believe it seems inappropriate to classify other senses according to emotion because they do not have emotionally altering effects, at least not significant ones or ones that we always recognize. Sound does. Think about it for a moment - what is it in scary movies that makes a scene frightening? It isn't so much the actual image, but the sound associated with it or the music which prescedes it. The same is true about romantic movies, action films, and often comedies too.
This creates an interesting contradiction, however, because studies show that a majority of communication between people does not even involve sound. An article on nonverbal communication cites that, "One study at UCLA indicated that up to 93 percent of communication effectiveness is determined by nonverbal cues." If 93 percent of effective communication is done nonverbally, yet verbal sound is really the only sense we associate with emotion, then why is it that nonverbal communication is able to have such a profound effect on people. I guess we could say that we do sometimes associate pictures and images with emotion, but they don't seem to have such a powerful effect as music does. Maybe it just comes down to the fact that verbal communication, i.e. sound or music, is the sense most easily communicated to a vast amount of people. It is much easier to have a million people hear the same song verses smell the same scent. Let's go back to the scary movie example for a moment. The only two senses we can experience through the movie are sight and sound - sound seemingly the most mood altering. However, what if we were able to smell what the people in the movie could smell, or feel the surrounding environment as they did - the temperature, wind, etc. - could these factors be as effectiving in altering one's mood as sound is? Peronally I think so; it probably seems as though sound is the most persuasive form of altering peoples' emotions or moods, but really it is just the most available method.