Work in Progress

Work in progress:

Community Research Project: Exploring links between music and well-being

Who are we and what are we doing

  • Dr Krishna Bhatti: PhD in health psychology, with experience in community research
  • Harvy Singh: Linguistics MA, with a background in psychology and anthropology

Music has brought our academic paths and personal interests together, as we are working collaboratively on various research projects to explore the effects, influences, and benefits of music on peoples’ well-being. We are aiming to look deeper into what the music we listen to/create can tell us about ourselves, and how an increased awareness may enhance our understanding of our own emotional regulation as well as our identities, personalities and more.

Life/music narrative – Where life narratives are concerned with overall life stories and the many factors that are involved, a life/music narratives aims to gain insight into a persons’ life through a ‘musical life journey’. That is, rather than trying to address and explore certain memories, traits, feelings and emotions etc through direct questioning, it is done through association with songs that elicit memories and feelings (find studies that show this is a good thing or that it can even be done).

Since hosting a webinar during the SCRA 2021 biennial international conference on June 26th, we hope to continue generating interest in, and increasing the accessibility of music related research in a way that can be understood and employed directly by anyone in any community.

Our aims:

  • Gain a deeper understanding of how music can impact our mental and physical well-being
  • Increase self-awareness by exploring and understanding how we interact with music
  • Make its benefits more easily understood and used more consciously by anyone
  • Generate ideas for easily accessible community focused strategies, organised events, studies, implementation of research outcomes etc

We would eventually like to create an online platform where people can view articles, research, projects, community-focused events, discuss ideas and converse with authors through a message board/forum, and be encouraged to give input that will be valued and considered in present and future research. This may help bring both academic and non-academic worlds closer together, potentially increasing the value of such research.

Main premise of our approach: 

The music you listen to is the soundtrack to your life. What is your own personal life/music narrative? What can the music we listen to tell us about ourselves? Does music taste reflect a persons’ personality, intellect, life journey, identity and awareness about oneself and their surroundings, emotional regulation ability? How consciously do we use music as a coping mechanism? Are there situations where music helps when nothing else can? If so, what is it about the music that does it?

These are the types of questions we feel we can all dig deeper into in order to understand ourselves more, and through thoughtful conversation and Socratic questioning, we aim to expose many of the underlying motives, thoughts and processes that are involved in our music listening habits.

Why this research is relevant and applicable to everyone:

Music is universal; it has no boundaries and is relevant in everyone’s life to some degree. Music is an immensely powerful thing that can be engaged with in so many ways, having neurological, emotional and physical effects that can be immensely impactful to peoples’ lives. It affects well-being, identity, culture, values and beliefs, memories, experiences, relationships, happy times, good times and anything in between. It can allow people to understand and vicariously experience other cultures, lifestyles and worlds that would otherwise be unreachable. It can unite people and divide people, save lives and end lives. It can instigate movements and change our cultural landscapes. It can be a source of motivation and empowerment, making us do things we never thought we were capable of. It is a source of knowledge, entertainment, culture, history. It can take on an almost ethereal form and have such an effect on people that transcends boundaries of language – which is why so often people are left speechless by performances or pieces of music. However, while people may be aware of some of these things to varying degrees, many of these relationships are not fully understood by people beyond a surface level, perhaps due to much of this more meaningful information being restricted to academic circles or have as of yet been unexplored.

What impact this research could lead to:

By conducting this type of research and presenting findings in a way that is not limited to academic circles, we can share and implement this knowledge directly with individuals and communities. With a considerable amount of research being limited to journals and written in a way that is not always easily accessible to many people and often behind a pay wall, we want to work on a more real level, that is more suited to practical implementation within communities who need it, rather than amassing theoretical knowledge and understanding within the academic domain. SCRA is provides us with the perfect platform, because it serves many disciplines that focus on community research and action. SCRA is also committed to promoting health and wellbeing through novel and creative initiatives for individuals from marginalised communities. Additionally, it also has a strong global impact on enhancing wellbeing and fostering collaboration where there is division and empowerment and oppression.  

In the same way that people’s exercise and dieting habits have been influenced by scientific research, we can add a deeper level of understanding of how we interact with music and what effect it has on us on a day-to-day basis, subsequently engaging with it more consciously to achieve desired effects.

Involvement of artists, producers and others in the industry:

We want representation from a wide range of cultural backgrounds and types of music in order to help bring more appreciation to genres that, in some cases, people may have certain negative misconceptions of. Misconceptions often stem from a lack of knowledge and understanding, and we want people to know that regardless of language, culture, or genre, music has the potential to be accessible and beneficial to people if they understand it more. For example, many people assume that hip-hop, rock and metal is crazy, mindless, anger inducing music, and often use it as something they can blame for how certain demographics behave. But understanding this music more, knowing the lyrics and artists' life stories and experiences that inspired them, can give people an appreciation that they otherwise wouldn’t have without this knowledge. 

Getting the views, opinions and general insight not only from listeners and fans but also from artists, producers, A&Rs, etc is crucial to this research as it provides a unique and incredibly important perspective. By involving them directly, it increases the likelihood of attracting attention from the people we want to reach. Initial interviews that have already been conducted included members of legendary Oakland-based Hip Hop group Hieroglyphics, Canadian Rock group Sumo Cyco, and New York based producer, multi-instrumentalist & singer-songwriter, Julie Schatz, among others.

In today’s digital age, it appears to be less likely that people outside of academic circles will seek out this information from sources such as journals, books, research articles and so on. So having the voice of those directly involved in the music industry may help to get the message out to all communities and help make it more accessible and relevant to those outside of academic circles.


Concepts that have emerged from our work so far

Emotional recognition through music;

-        Music library = your emotional range

-        Having music library on shuffle helps to achieve emotional ‘equilibrium’

-        Certain types of music can help facilitate the feeling of an emotion, or to help draw it out rather than suppressing it (we are often told not to feel angry or sad, yet these are human emotions that are relevant to everyone. People need to be educated how to feel these things in a safe environment and mitigate any negative consequences, such as punching someone or taking an overdose).

Enhancing self-awareness through knowing and analysing our music listening habits

-        Conscious and reflective engagement through using a ‘music diary’

-        What, when, how and why do we interact with certain music


Existing literature found based on themes, questions, topics of interest

Music and identity

Music as a technology of the self (DeNora, 1999)

Music and the Self (Janata, 2009)

Music and Self-Identity (2020)

Awareness_A_Relationship_or_Not - Music and Self-Awareness: A Relationship or Not? (Navarro, 2015)


Culture and identity

Music as Means To Enhance Cultural Awareness and Literacy in the Foreign Language Classroom. (Failoni, 1993)

Teaching Cultural Awareness Through Music (McGraw Hill, 2020)

Singing and cultural understanding: A music education perspective (Ilari, Chen-Haftech, Crawford; 2013)


Preserving culture, language and identity through music and singing

Traditional Music in Community Life: Aspects of Performance, Recordings, and Preservation (Seeger, 1990)

Music as Cultural Heritage (Inawat, 2015)

10 ways music is intrinsically linked to our cultural identity (Ford, 2020)


Music and wellbeing, links to emotional regulation, self-awareness of emotions, how do feelings and emotions translate/relate to music, culture and heritage, memories. Mental, physical and neurological effects of music; Music interventions, etc.

Music therapy, an allied health profession, "is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualised goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program." Music therapy is a broad field!

 “Often we see people living with dementia remembering long lost memories due to listening to particular pieces of familiar music; however, even if the person is unable to communicate this memory, we may find that the feeling of this memory still remains.” – Music and Self Identity (2020)

How musical engagement promotes well-being in education contexts: the case of a young man with profound and multiple disabilities (McFerran & Shoemark, 2013)

Music, health, and well-being: A review (MacDonald, 2013)

The psychological functions of music listening (Schäfer et al, 2013)

Music Use for Mood Regulation: Self-Awareness and Conscious Listening Choices in Young People With Tendencies to Depression (Stewart et al, 2019)

Emotion regulation with music in depressed and non-depressed individuals: Goals, strategies, and mechanisms (Sakka & Juslin, 2018)

Language learning enhanced by music and song (Israel, 2013) – impact on mood, atmosphere, mental state, etc and how this enhanced students’ state of mind, behaviours and learning outcomes.

Music and social bonding: “self-other” merging and neurohormonal mechanisms (Tarr, Launay & Dunbar, 2014) – “here we suggest that both self-other merging and the EOS are important in the social bonding effects of music. In order to investigate possible interactions between these two mechanisms, future experiments should recreate ecologically valid examples of musical activities.” [Research can be done in contexts such as concerts, looking at the build up, the live event, and post event impact on both performers and listeners] 

SBSK history (using music to connect with children with special needs) -