A professor at University of Oregon is exploring how mindfulness meditation may enhance both music engagement and performance.
Frank Diaz noticed, anecdotally, a connection to improved attention by his students who were first exposed to a brief session of mindfulness meditation before hearing an opera passage.
A professor in the UO School of Music and Dance, Diaz reports a rise of focused engagement for student participants who listened to a 10-minute excerpt of Giacomo Puccini's opera "La Boheme" after listening to a 15-minute recording of a segment produced by the Duke University Center for Mindfulness Research.
Mindfulness is an ancient technique that helps direct a person's consciousness into the present. In this case, listeners were reminded to focus on physical sensations or their breathing if their attention drifted.
The 132 student participants were divided into four groups. Those undergoing mindfulness preparation were then additionally divided into subgroups that were tested for two types of peak experiences, a highly emotional experience known as aesthetic response, and flow - the listeners' effortless engagement or how much "in the zone" they were as they listened to the music.
Control groups, which did not hear the mindfulness recording, were tested either for aesthetic or flow responses. Subjects were tested for real time responses using a Continuous Response Digital Interface developed in the late 1980s at Florida State University. The device allows subjects to turn a dial, rather than speaking, in response to how music moves them as they listen. The dial's movement was recorded.
Overall, 97 percent of the participants had either one or several moments of flow or aesthetic response. Of the 69 subjects who engaged in mindfulness, 64 percent thought the technique had enhanced their listening experience.
There was a discrepancy between the subjects' responses gathered in real time and summative data-how they reacted by turning the dial while listening vs. how they recalled their experience at the end of the experiments.
Diaz said that the real time responses more accurately captured the attention being devoted to the music, and that the mindfulness technique helped drive participants into the zone of readiness to listen to music they've heard many times before.
The study, Diaz said, has potential ramifications for music education.
The study appears online ahead of publication in the journal Psychology of Music.