Lyric versus Melody: Music & Mood

by Cherrie C

Little is known about the mechanism of music’s effect on mood although it has been used since antiquity to moderate mood. This paper investigates disputing findings between lyric and melody in eliciting dominant effect on mood through an examination of a possible mechanism to music’s effect drawn from a parallel between art therapy and music therapy and the role of flow in facilitating therapeutic effects. Through further examination on the role of sound through evolution, this study concludes melody to hold dominant effect on mood, which may indicate happiness to be better derived from primary processes.


Art therapy is associated with the ability to be able to facilitate “flow,” a concept developed by Mihaly Csikszenimihalyi in which an individual enters a state of consciousness characterized by complete engagement, harmony and timelessness (Chilton 64). Music therapy, like art therapy, is a form of expressive therapy which engages patients in an extend period of immersement with the art form (Chilton 64; Bakker 28). As such, music, like art, likely facilitates flow or similar altered states of consciousness. Arnold Bakker argues that because music requires sustained involvement in concentration and practice, as well as allows for musicians to form identification to music, musicians likely frequently experience flow (28). Additionally, the common phenomenon of “chills” experienced by individuals who are so touched by a beautiful musical performance may be said to be put into an altered state of consciousness like flow as the “chill” experience is characterized by a similar state of timelessness and total engagement. As music, like art, can facilitate flow or similar altered states of consciousness, the model of transient hypofrontality theory proposed by Arne Dietriech which Chilton applies to art therapy and the facilitation of flow may be used to examine the relationship between music and cognitive processing (Chilton 65).

Works Cited

Bakker, Arnold B. “Flow Among Music Teachers and Their Students: The Crossover of Peak Experiences.” Journal of Vocational Behaviour 66.1 (2005): 26-44 Web. 17  June 2014.

Chilton, Gioia. “Art Therapy and Flow: A Review of the Literature and Applications.” Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association 30.2 (2013): 60-70. Web. 17  June 2014.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s