Without Words: The Allure of Music

Written by: Enzo Bello & Danielle Suguitan

Illustrated by: Sophia Dumlao

For a moment, reminisce. Ponder on all those great symphonies or instrumental concertos serenading you in hotel lobbies while you eat. Maybe while you’re in the mall, you’ll recognize a tune of the latest and catchiest pop songs that will have you humming and tapping to the beat. Maybe your noisy neighbor isn’t so loud with all the classics they sing, you’re just annoyed that they sing it all the time. The birds on trees harmonize, jeepneys blast OPM, and even the rhythm of your heart is what we all lovingly call music. 

There is no denying that music is everywhere; when we work, walk, or work out, we’ll probably be greeted by or at least have thought of having music with us. For violinist Iyo Bello (4 BS PSY), music can be experienced in different ways whether through writing and playing music, listening to it, or even living through it. For him, life is completely inseparable from music.

You do not need to speak when you make music, you may simply play, listen, and feel. The goosebumps from its intensity, the tears from its resonance, the allure from its complexity, and the automatism of musicians are exactly why music is not just an art or a practice, it is a science. 

So, what is behind the art of music?

Briefly fine-tuned for us

For over a millennium, anthropologists and ethnomusicologists have suggested that music is a natural aspect of our human nature. After all, it is related to sound, a factor in one of our most prized senses: hearing.1 In this manner, music becomes universal because of hearing. You do not need words, you simply need sound. Essentially, music is a way to speak without words; transcendent of language barriers, it makes us react.2 

However, while sound evokes a reaction, music branches out from sound to evoke an emotion too—sometimes an emotion that is contrary to what we hear. Where noise might fail in producing pleasant reactions, music makes us feel a variety of emotions. These might range from happiness, sorrow, anger, or a mix of these. Scientifically speaking, music electrifies your body through your nerves; it moves you because you feel it.

In this way, music is defined primarily as a delicately structured arrangement of sound that holds your attention through your senses. What we make of these structures is entirely based on how we perceive and feel them. For musician Randy Begtang (3 BS BIO), “music spurs a different emotion through the lyrics and instrumentals.” In essence, Begtang says music allows us to explore the depth of our emotions, and understand it in ways that sometimes words cannot.

Thus, music is a platform, and we are constantly on that platform or watching it.

This platform holds true to one’s opinion as well. Lyrical music has been around for millennia and has been one of the most artistic manifestations of opinion. The words you use or the lack thereof are symbols of what the composer wants to convey. Where one might be happy, they might use bubbly words. However, this is not to say that instrumental music has no place in stating opinions or evoking emotion. Powerful displays of instrumental music, blasting away the highest notes are just as intense and moving as lyrics.

We find music also in the background of other art forms. In the opera, singing colludes with instrumentality. In films, the white noise is replaced by music that reflects the acting. In gaming, studying, painting, writing, and in cooking; as we said, music is everywhere.

Manifestations of music

Music, however, isn’t just a token or a platform, music benefits life as well. It is a natural part of our life and this will not go unnoticed. Leading neurologist and ethnomusicologist Dr. Mark Tramo founded The Institute for Music & Brain Science. His research is only some of the many findings in science that have linked benefits from listening and playing music.

In his 2001 study, Tramo discussed that no one part of the brain is excited or engaged by music, instead all parts of the brain work together to come up with music or react to it. Music actively engages large areas of the brain that are required for musical perception and performance and lets it retain and even improve its neural plasticity—the proper functioning, growth, and reorganization of nerves. These musical brain areas coincide with the same areas for learning and the development of skills and habits such as math, reading, and spatial awareness.3

Further interviewing him, Tramo reinforces that music is indispensable to humans. In his own words, “music is a part of life, we not only perceive it but we learn and adapt with it.” He continues with the notion that music should not be overlooked for its benefits and contributions to human development. In fact, efforts should be made to make the public aware of just how significant it can be in our lives.

Music, defines our experiences; oftentimes, music is intertwined with an event, so much so that a particular song can build an association with that memory. In a 2021 study by musicologists Dr. Belfi and Dr. Jakubwoski, music-evoked autobiographical memories tend to be associated with emotions. They connected the dots between identity formation from certain lived experiences and the involvement of music. Their multi-case study is only one of many cases where music-based therapies have been used as alternative methods for those suffering from neurological diseases that affect memory, namely Alzheimer’s and dementia.4

In a similar study by Barradas, Juslin, and Bermudez (2021), it was found that music was a great intervention for demention because it was quick, easy, and inexpensive to administer. However, there was much to be ascertained about its effectiveness since a greater control must be exerted in order to properly administer it. Due to a mind’s association of a memory to a soundtrack, it evokes the feeling of agency and self-identity which may lead to varying degrees of recollection in patients with dementia. This much is clear with the prominence of music in one’s personal development.5

However, to say that music contributes to our development should already be a given. Music also calms and helps us relax. Studies from a research team led by Dr. Tamaya Van Criekinge suggest that relaxing music helps reduce muscle tension and movement quality by over 35% as opposed to silence or sedative music. They correlated that music speeds up the relaxation of fatigued muscles due to music being able to positively affect heart rate, respiration, oxygen consumption, and blood pressure.6

Further adding to this, the benefits of music cannot be understated in terms of mental health. In a meta-analysis of 400 studies, Dr. Levitin and Dr. Chanda, found that music improves the body’s immune system function and reduces stress. Listening to music was also found to be more effective than prescription drugs in reducing anxiety by reducing levels of the stress hormone cortisol. The findings from that analysis also allude to the body’s increased production of the antibody immunoglobulin A and natural killer cells—the cells that attack invading viruses and boost the immune system’s effectiveness which only adds to its medical benefits.7

Research led by Dr. Coutinho found that mere background music—passive listening—improves cognitive activities like studying or working respondents as it “improves mood, helps relaxation, alleviates boredom” when, in actuality, it also enhances cognitive performance or work quality. Though, a further systematic review of similar studies say that findings regarding background music aren’t conclusive enough. It seems as though that music is to each our own.8

While music is often portrayed as an outlet to mediate one’s negative emotions and anxiety, that alone is only one aspect of music therapy. Given its broadness, there are many avenues for the treatment of a myriad of diseases. For infants, lullabies were found to improve an infant’s mood along with their sleeping and eating patterns while simultaneously soothing their parents. The same reasoning could be found with those suffering from depression since music reduces their stress, lending reason to the fact that it can also be used as a coping mechanism. With the way music is able to tap into our psyche, it is no surprise that it has made its place in our daily routines.9 

Imagining a world without music

Music has immense power, not just as an art—as stated—but also as a science. It taps into the very foundation of one of our senses and is exploited in ways that have been revolutionary to the human psyche. When asked about a world without music, Tramo said that it “simply isn’t possible.”

Tramo continues: “A world without music is a world without life; it is an impossibility. What we know as music [today] is a construct but life unknowingly makes music everywhere and, as long as humans are here, we will make sense of that.”

For Bello, a world without music is one that is lacking. Bello corroborates,“at any given point, someone is listening to something. [Music] is something that you don’t know you rely upon yet still do”. When asked the same question, Begtang similarly notes that a world without music is impossible. “A world without music is a world without humanity and identity.” For Begtang, it is an irreplaceable and permanent part of our humanity—without music, we would not be able to connect to the world. 

The listener, the musician, the composer, are all equally part and important to music as music is important to us; albeit in different manners. Despite these differences music tends to break stigma by the way it has, time and time again, united  people. While yes, the musician might have faster reaction times and the composer might be more creatively adept than the average listener, what binds people together is the sole fact that they love music. 

In Tramo’s last thoughts, he aspires to tell everyone else out there that it’s never too late to pick up an instrument or listen to a new genre, because in the same way that music has changed his and many others’ life, it can change yours too. Music is everywhere—it requires no words—why not use it to your advantage?


Baker M. 2007 Aug 1. Music moves brain to pay attention, Stanford study finds. News Center. https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2007/07/music-moves-brain-to-pay-attention-stanford-study-finds.html.

Barradas GT, Juslin PN, i Badia SB. 2021. Emotional Reactions to Music in Dementia Patients and Healthy Controls: Differential Responding Depends on the Mechanism. Music & Science. 4:205920432110101. doi:https://doi.org/10.1177/20592043211010152.

Belfi AM, Jakubowski K. 2021. Music and Autobiographical Memory. Music & Science. 4:205920432110471. doi:https://doi.org/10.1177/20592043211047123.

Cheah Y, Wong HK, Spitzer M, Coutinho E. 2022. Background Music and Cognitive Task Performance: A Systematic Review of Task, Music, and Population Impact. Music & Science. 5:205920432211343. doi:https://doi.org/10.1177/20592043221134392.

Tramo MJ. 2001. BIOLOGY AND MUSIC: Enhanced: Music of the Hemispheres. Science. 291(5501):54–56. doi:https://doi.org/10.1126/science.10.1126/science.1056899.

Van Criekinge T, D’Août K, O’Brien J, Coutinho E. 2021. Music and Hypertonia: Can Music Listening Help Reduce Muscle Tension and Improve Movement Quality? Music & Science. 4:205920432110153. doi:https://doi.org/10.1177/20592043211015353.

WebDev IET. 2009 Feb 23. Study Finds Brain Hub That Links Music, Memory and Emotion. UC Davis. https://www.ucdavis.edu/news/study-finds-brain-hub-links-music-memory-and-emotion.

Welch GF, Biasutti M, MacRitchie J, McPherson GE, Himonides E. 2020. Editorial: The Impact of Music on Human Development and Well-Being. Frontiers in Psychology. 11. doi:https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01246. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01246/full.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com 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