Physical Commitment Makes Performers Appreciate Their Music More

Summary: According to researchers, embarking in physical activity makes people appreciate the musical sounds they produce more, even if the sounds do not correspond with their personal musical tastes.

Source: Max Planck Institute.

Physical exertion increases the appreciation of the sounds produced in music making, even they don’t correspond to one’s own musical style.

Many musicians are familiar with the phenomenon: Their music sounds much better while performing it live than when they listen back to the recorded version. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig have now found out that the physical commitment makes performers appreciate their music more. The findings could not only help people access new styles of music, but could also make music therapy more successful.

Previously it was assumed that music is perceived as pleasant when it is to one’s taste. Those who are more into the harsh sounds of metal music will not be enthusiastic about the softer melodies of pop songs. Similarly, those devoting themselves to Italian operas will not derive pleasure from the monotonous bass sounds of electronic music.

The fact that this feeling is greatly dependent on the way in which we experience music has recently been demonstrated by scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig: “We observed again and again how grandpas enjoyed electronic music together with their grandchildren, although they had never been interested in this style before”, says Thomas H. Fritz from the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig. “As soon as they produce the music on their own instead of passively absorbing it, their aesthetic perception towards other music genres changes dramatically.”

Movement creates music

This effect can be observed particularly strongly in Jymmin, a method whose name derives from a combination of jamming and gym—a mixture of free music improvisation and sports. In Jymmin, fitness devices are modulated in a way that allows music to be created by performing exercises. Using an abdominal trainer, pull bar or stepper, singles tones can be produced and modulated. In this manner and with the help of special music software developed at Leipzig’s Max Planck Institute, sports equipment can be used like musical instruments. “People who deem themselves totally unmusical and who have never held a musical instrument in their hands are thereby able to make music”, explains Fritz, who first spoke about this technique four years ago. “When this occurs in combination with physical exertion we can measure a positive bias.” This means that people experience the music as much more pleasant and feel rewarding effects as soon as they produce it on their own—even when the style of music is not to their taste.

These observations could also explain why musicians perceive their own performance as more aesthetically satisfying than just listening to it. Neuroscientists working with Fritz also talk about the Band Effect in which joint music making also plays a crucial role.

Past psychological studies have shown that personal…