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Study: Gregorian chant "can reduce blood pressure and stress"

lubeltri

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Stress levels could be reduced simply by participating in some Gregorian chanting, researchers claimed today.

Dr Alan Watkins, a senior lecturer in neuroscience at Imperial College London, revealed that teaching people to control their breathing and applying the musical structure of chanting can help their emotional state.

He said: "We have recently carried out research that demonstrates that the regular breathing and musical structure of chanting can have a significant and positive physiological impact."

The monks of Stift Heiligenkreuz sing Gregorian melodies on their new album - the chants are said to reduce stress levels

The research involved five monks having their heart rate and blood pressure measured throughout a 24-hour period.

Results showed their heart rate and blood pressure dipped to its lowest point in the day when they were chanting.

Dr Watkins pointed to previous studies that also demonstrated such practices have been shown to lower blood pressure, increase performance hormone levels as well as reduce anxiety and depression.

The lecturer also runs Cardiac Coherence Ltd, a company that helps executives perform under stressful conditions.

The Halo computer series has supposedly made an impact on the demand for Gregorian music after it appeared on the game's soundtrack

He said: "The control of the breathing, the feelings of wellbeing that communal singing bring, and the simplicity of the melodies, seem to have a powerful effect on reducing blood pressure and therefore stress."

"We have found that teaching individuals to control their breathing, generate more positive emotional states and connect better with those around them – all key aspects of Gregorian chanting – can significantly improve their mental state, reduce tension, and increase their efficiency in the workplace."

Record company Universal recently chose the monks of Stift Heiligenkreuz, Vienna to make an album after responding to a public interest in the genre.

The company also believes the Halo computer game series, available on PCs and Xbox consoles, sparked a resurgence in the music traditionally sung in male church choirs, as Gregorian chant-like melodies form the main soundtrack of the games.



http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/technology/technology.html?in_article_id=563533&in_page_id=1965
 

scamandrius

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Well, since Gregorian chant is descended from Byzantine chant, maybe we can infer that steady listening to Byzantine chant can not only cause reduced levels of stress, but also cause greater abilities in mathematics, physics, medicine and who knows what else?

Every year someone puts out a new idea that listening to one type of music has all sorts of benefits.  I remember when I was in high school that listening to Mozart correlated to greater memory recall.  The only types of music that seem to have no benefits in these regards are country and rap.  Go figure!
 

Schultz

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scamandrius said:
Well, since Gregorian chant is descended from Byzantine chant, maybe we can infer that steady listening to Byzantine chant can not only cause reduced levels of stress, but also cause greater abilities in mathematics, physics, medicine and who knows what else?

Every year someone puts out a new idea that listening to one type of music has all sorts of benefits.  I remember when I was in high school that listening to Mozart correlated to greater memory recall.  The only types of music that seem to have no benefits in these regards are country and rap.  Go figure!
The difference is that this study isn't advocating just listening to chant, but actively participating in it.  It makes sense because, as the article points out, doing chant requires one to control breathing and wrap one's mind around a logical, very ordered structure.  Both of those can contribute to a sense of safety and security which will help in reducing stress and blood pressure levels, even if only for the time one is chanting.
 

prodromas

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So they tested monks about stress levels. How about the less stress due to the holy lives they are living?
 

PeterTheAleut

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prodromas said:
So they tested monks about stress levels. How about the less stress due to the holy lives they are living?
I don't know that I would call their lives necessarily holier than ours, though it's pretty obvious that our monastics have separated themselves from what we call the workaday rat race with all its stressors.  And, of course, you also need to take into account the generally healthier monastic diet, something about which we talked many moons ago on another thread.
 

lubeltri

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The research involved five monks having their heart rate and blood pressure measured throughout a 24-hour period.

Results showed their heart rate and blood pressure dipped to its lowest point in the day when they were chanting.
 

ytterbiumanalyst

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^ Well, I wouldn't call five monks a very thorough test group, but it's an interesting prospect. I certainly do feel calmer when chanting (usually Obikhod), and in fact I often hum or sing liturgical music at work and find it quite relaxing. There may be some truth to it.
 

EofK

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Occasionally I play a cd of an Antiochian liturgy for Caitlin and she's asleep in no time.  Hopefully that trend will stop with childhood, though.  :laugh:
 

minasoliman

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ytterbiumanalyst said:
^ Well, I wouldn't call five monks a very thorough test group, but it's an interesting prospect. I certainly do feel calmer when chanting (usually Obikhod), and in fact I often hum or sing liturgical music at work and find it quite relaxing. There may be some truth to it.
I agree.  The study is not an analytical study.  It's a correlative/case study that looks for an association, but does not necessarily test causality.  In other words, the study is just as good as the stork/birth tests of the past, where they find that when stork population increased, births also increased.

The study also used only monks.  So, this study has a very big bias connected to it, especially monks who enjoy doing Gregorian chants.  I find myself relieving stress by playing basketball and singing Coptic hymns.  It could very well be something that they personally enjoy and may have nothing to do with the chants themselves.

So on a scientific/epidemiological level, it only scratches the surface.  One cannot infer anything from this study.  These type of studies only generate hypotheses so that they can later test them. (just learned epidemiology in my classes; it helped a lot to discern between what the media makes out as "research shows..." when in fact, it's not that big of a deal sometimes).
 

stanley123

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scamandrius said:
Well, since Gregorian chant is descended from Byzantine chant, maybe we can infer that steady listening to Byzantine chant can not only cause reduced levels of stress, but also cause greater abilities in mathematics, physics, medicine and who knows what else?

Every year someone puts out a new idea that listening to one type of music has all sorts of benefits.  I remember when I was in high school that listening to Mozart correlated to greater memory recall.  The only types of music that seem to have no benefits in these regards are country and rap.  Go figure!
Well, I would agree that Gregorian chant and Byzantine chant can reduce stress. On the other hand, I would have to say that some of the profane, loud rock type music offered at some of the R. Catholic New Masses has the opposite effect for many people.
 

ytterbiumanalyst

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^ My grandfather, a lifelong devout Catholic, had this to say about rock "worship" music: "If that's the way to worship God, I want no part of it." I think he was on to something.

Chant, however, I find quite soothing, regardless of the religion. Buddhist and Muslim chant I also find relaxing (even though I can't understand a word they're saying). I think it may have more to do with the tonal structure of the music than with the religion. Yet I find most restorative the Orthodox chant which I can both understand and believe; I imagine it's the same for Catholics with the Gregorian.
 

minasoliman

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By the way, I hope no one misunderstands me...i personally enjoy gregorian chants and find them soothing as well.  Just the study seems shoddy or at best speculative.
 
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