Medical Mysteries of MusicOngoing History of New Music

Ongoing History Daily: Atonal music

Most of the music that’s been made has focused on combining notes into pleasant-sounding combinations and sequences. But there is something to be said for atonal and dissonant songs in music—which, counterintuitively, can also be rather pleasant in some ways.

Neuroscientists studying music and the brain have investigated why atonal music has the emotional effect it does. They found that people can still enjoy atonal sounds, especially if they’re used to making sad music. They also found that tonic music—the pleasant-sounding stuff—stimulated areas of the left frontal part of the brain (where positive emotional responses are created). In contrast, atonal sounds stimulate the right frontal areas (where we process negative stimuli).

This research may end up being used in music therapy to help treat ailments like depression.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38536 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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