Radio, Broadcasting, Listener, Broadcaster

The Unifying Force of Radio

CNN recently published an article about the relationship between the brain and music. In that article, they compiled some research from Daniel Levitin and colleagues about the health benefits of music, how brain activity can indicate what music we like, as well as how our brains experience music in a very consistent fashion.

In the latter part of the article, they discuss that although it would seem that different people would have different experiences with the same piece of music, that actually may not be the case. Despite different personalities, preferences, and personal histories of listening to music, from the perspective of the brain, there may be more similarities among music listeners than we think.

"Despite our idiosyncrasies in listening, the brain experiences music in a very consistent fashion across subjects," said Daniel Abrams, lead author and postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University School of Medicine.

Researchers conducted a study where various people listened to the same music. They found that among all of the participants, there was synchronization in several key brain areas and similar brain activity patterns. More generally, they found that despite any personal differences, there's a common experience in listening to the same music.

Ultimately, many different brain regions involved in movement, attention, planning, and memory are also involved in listening to music. These structures have nothing to do with auditory processing, meaning there is more than sound processing going on when we experience music.

Levitin also concluded that the results of this study reflect the power of music to unite people. "It's not our natural tendency to thrust ourselves into a crowd of 20,000 people, but for a Muse concert or a Radiohead concert we'll do it," Levitin said. "There's this unifying force that comes from the music, and we don't get that from other things."

With all that said, radio is a fascinating medium to consider in this context of music uniting people and providing a sense of community. There's really no doubting that there is a unifying force of music. Many of us have likely noticed this phenomenon while attending a concert. However, the intensity of the sense of community that we often experience at concerts and music festivals can also be applied to radio. Concerts, music festivals, and radio all provide this second layer of community. Music alone unites people, but to then experience the music together at the same time provides another level of unity.

Aside from these instances, there is no other context in which you can really listen to the same exact thing as a group of individuals that you don't know. Sure, you may attend an event, party, work function, or even a simple dinner where you listen to the same music as a group of individuals. You may even listen to music with friends or family. Of course, you experience the unifying element of music, but these instances are not quite the same as intentionally going to a concert or tuning into a radio station. There is an element of anonymity in going to a concert or listening to a radio station, yet you are part of a community of people. You may not intentionally go to a concert or tune into a radio station to feel this unity and sense of community, but you likely still feel it on some level, even if it's subconscious.

Tuning into a radio station might not seem like it is similar to the unifying force of music that you particularly experience at a concert. However, in comparison to the other methods of music consumption, it is truly second-best to the live music setting. You tune in to a station and immediately you are listening along to the same songs as hundreds if not thousands of people. This means that hundreds or thousands of people are having a simultaneous common experience listening to music. That's a powerful thought.

So, whether you are a listener or a broadcaster, next time you tune in or program your station, think about the unifying quality of music and the way in which radio can really foster that aspect of listening to music. If you are a broadcaster, you are essentially broadcasting a shared experience that goes above and beyond simply listening to the same song. If you are a listener, you are sharing a similar experience with a whole community of people you aren't even in the same physical space as. Whether you are seeking a shared experience in radio or not, there's no doubting that there is a unifying force in music and radio can really foster that force.

Radio is an incredibly powerful tool that we've only begun to unlock, and applying research on the brain and music reveals that radio might even be more powerful than we thought, especially for further cultivating the unifying element of music.

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Article Image: William White via Unsplash.

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About Michelle Ruoff

  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania