Music. It can tug at our hearts. Perhaps even literally. Because when people sing together, their hearts begin to beat in sync with each other. [Björn Vickhoff et al., Music structure determines heart rate variability of singers]
Researchers monitored the heart rates of 15 teenagers as they produced sounds solo. The participants either hummed one note or sang a hymn while breathing whenever they wanted. They also performed a mantra that required them to breath only at the end of each phrase. Then the exercises were repeated by groups of five subjects all singing at once. And when the subjects performed regular song structures in unison, their heart rates slowed down and sped up at the same time.
Vocal performances impose set breathing patterns, which regulate and synchronize heartbeats. According to the researchers, choral participation can thus improve well-being. It not only tones the cardiovascular system, but also produces the same relaxing effect as breathing exercises practiced in yoga. So music truly soothes the savage breast—or at least, the heart beating inside it.
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]