Music is a special pleasure that we can really take advantage of thanks to amazing technologies that allows so much access to it. Aside from enjoyment we find in listening to music, there are many other ways in which music affects us.
A melody activates many regions of the brain including the auditory, motor, and limbic regions. Such widespread activation explains why there are numerous emotional and cognitive affects. Music also improves memory performance; information learned while listening to a song can often be recalled by “playing” the songs in our heads.
Compositions, like relaxing classics, improves the duration and intensity of concentration in all ages groups and ability levels. According to a study done by members of Radbound University, in the Netherlands, music helps with creativity. When their study participants listened to music labeled “happy”, they came up with more ideas and creative solutions than those who listened to other kinds of music or none at all.
Physical performance also improves from listening to music by causing a reduction in the feeling of fatigue, increased levels of psychological stimulation, a physiological relaxation response, and improvement in motor coordination!
Work more productively
The effects of music have been studied with regards to some very specific occupations, such as surgeons. The American Medical Association published a study which analyzed surgeons listening to music while operating. The music, especially when picked by the surgeon, resulted in diminished feelings of stress, as well as faster and more accurate work.
Music can both reduce stress and induce relaxation. Numerous studies have shown that anyone, including newborns, can experience the relaxing effects of music. When it comes to reducing stress, music promotes the relaxation of tense muscles, which in turn releases tension.
According to Professor Daniel J. Levitin, music can reduce chronic stress since it lowers the stress hormone, cortisone. Listening to music increases the neurotransmitter dopamine as well, which is an integral part of the brains pleasure - reward system. Music has even been found to alleviate symptoms of mood and mental disorders, such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, ADHD, post-traumatic stress disorder, and schizophrenia.
We Use It Too!
So music is enjoyable and has some interesting effects on the brain and body, but what role can it play in an escape room? Our Shpola Zeide Room, for instance, has a Tzaddik's niggun and dance at its core. More on that later!
Jan Baumann is a music composer, producer, and workshop trainer who has been working on escape room music since 2015. He contends that sound and music can transform your escape room into a vivid, intense and overall emotional experience.
He says that music in an escape room should be subtle, supporting the story but without capturing the player’s attention. It adds to the experience by softly conveying information, such as a new phase in the game, or by adding pressure towards the end of the game.
Baumann also explains that the music should match the game structure, if which three general phases arise in almost every escape room, in order to best affect the atmosphere.
The first stage is the beginning of the game, when players are orienting themselves and exploring the room. In this phase he suggests gentle and quiet music, creating a mood that is mysteries and subtly tense.
The second stage is when players start being productive and progressing, without feeling the pressure of time yet. At this point the music should become more powerful, conveying suspense and momentum.
The last stage is towards the end, when the players are more stressed as the countdown begins to catch their attention. The music may now consistently rise until the end, reflecting the intense and frantic vibe permeating the situation.
A resource as powerful as music can really take an escape room experience to another level, imbuing the right emotions into the atmosphere, and reflecting the feelings of the players. Please comment below with your suggestions for the three stages of our Shpola Room - it's ready for a soundtrack!
Understanding just some of the potent influence is music, it comes as no surprise that we are told not to listen to it during the counting of the Omer, which coincides with the tragic deaths of Rabbi Akiva’s 24,000 students. We are in mourning over the appalling loss of life, which is accompanied by certain laws, including the prohibition to listen to live music.
Music undeniably alters our emotions and state of mind. This poignant tool is deemed inappropriate by our Sages for a time when we are in such a state of sorrow, grieving this painful calamity.
Yet this also reveals to us music’s inherent ability to be used to bring much positivity into our lives, when using the right outlets at the right times to make the most use out of this powerful resource that G-D has graciously given us!