Studying with music

The concept that someone can engage in more productive study through listening to music, has always been beyond me. Personally, I struggle to study effectively in the presence of any noise at all, let a lone music that is being directed straight into my eardrum. Despite my own hesitations towards the idea, science seems to argue that in certain ways there is a truth to the notion that music can improve the intake and memorization of information.

While the argument is very situational, studies do appear to show that listening to music while performing math study, or non-lyrical music while undergoing study that involves the writing of words, can be beneficial; beneficial in the sense that the mind is more consistent with its attention towards the task at hand. If the study does involve writing then it seems music that is of the more classical and/or acoustic genre is preferred. Specifically, studies have suggested the music that is played in movie scores gives one of the highest levels of increase of “productive study”; where the most information is retained.

This concept of “musical studying” has become much more of an interest for myself with the knowledge of Bohlman’s concept of Epistemology; how music gains meaning through association with activity, in a specific cultural context. In this instance, the concept of epistemology obviously revolves around the connection between music and academic performance, which I view as a very Western linkage.

I have learnt a number of things from Bohlman’s writings and this idea of listening to music in study. Most of all, I feel that majority of Bohlman’s writing focuses on the scrutiny of Western perception of music, where we do “not understand” the meaning of music or what music is in other “Non-Western” regions. With this constant focus, it is easy to forget that this idea is reciprocated for these foreign cultures with regards to their intake on our cultural music. The way in which a generation of academics have fused advances in musical technology to their act of study, seems to have come about through spontaneity and perhaps a growing urge for constant stimulation. The concept of Epistemology was broadened for me in this way, where activity association with music also applies to my own culture, and through much more subtle ways than I first anticipated.

3 Replies to “Studying with music”

  1. I think the idea you bring up about how studying/academic performance and music have a Western linkage is interesting. Especially considering its relation to the definition of epistemology that you mentioned- for many students I think music is able to be used in an academic context that helps us learn and study, which may not be true in other places and cultures. I have always been interested in learning about and trying to understand other cultures, so have really appreciated that this class has allowed me to do some of this in a musical sense.
    Never before had I thought about sermons, how to become a musician in North India, fetes in Sardinia, or the ethical considerations in music sampling and reading about all these things have broadened my perspective on music as a whole and its purpose and place in other cultures.

  2. I can definitely relate to your struggle with listening to music while studying or doing homework. Even as I was reading your post and listening to spotify in the background, I had to pause the music I was listening to because I simply could not focus on what I was reading. However, I do like to study in places that aren’t completely quiet and instead have some background noise (whether electrical or simple quiet conversation), so I wouldn’t have any problem with listening to a sort of ambient music as well. But I guess the problem remains that I am still unable to listen to the type of music I would want to listen to, and I am not sure if science will come up with any way to help me out with this anytime soon.

  3. I was in the same boat as you in the beginning of the year. Everyone told me that listening to music helped them study, but whenever I tried to listen to music while I read, it only slowed me down. What I realized is whenever my friends were telling me to listen to “music”, they were specifically referring to non-lyrical genres like classical and jazz. Since that point, those noisy bus rides home from away games and doing work on the first floor of the library is no longer an issue. However, I don’t see the music’s purpose as elevating my levels of focus. Instead, it’s main purpose is to block out any conversations or noise that would cause distraction. I prefer to listen to classical music or jazz depending on what mood I’m in and what I’m reading. On the other hand, I found I can still listen to rap when I do math homework because it doesn’t distract me like it would if I was reading.

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