Imagine you have slowly been deteriorating, and now have ended up at rock bottom. What does one turn to? Is it something simple, such as talking to a family member, or is it something more? Over the centuries, music has been an effective way of helping somebody get a grip on life itself. One example of when someone may have hit rock bottom, is during the 1930s. This was the time when the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street crashed. This left millions of unemployed Americans hopeless and unable to support themselves and their families. During this struggle, some people turned to music as an outlet to express their feelings about the hardships happening in their life. Depending on the genre of the piece, most upbeat and positive songs release hormones that, believe it or not, make you happy. Music was a common outlet that is still a technique used today for people to express all kinds of feelings and help them get through tough times they may be going through.
The Great Depression began in 1929 and ended around 1939. Several events contributed to this downfall, which started out subtle but became a bigger problem as time began to continue, which no one truly saw coming. When the United States economy expanded between 1920 and 1929, the total wealth of the country grew more than doubled the original amount. Since the expansion was so rapid, investors began selling overpriced goods which lead to the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street to reach its peak in August of 1929. According to History.com, 1933 was, “when the Great Depression reached its lowest point, some 15 million Americans were unemployed and nearly half the country’s banks had failed” (History.com). Not only the United States was affected, but the whole world went through this agony too. “It was the longest and most severe depression ever experienced by the industrialized Western world, sparking fundamental changes in economic institutions, macroeconomic policy, and economic theory” (Britannica). It was because of this financial and industrial fall that people began to look for hope to which they found it, within the music that was heard. Back then music was played on a phonograph which allowed people to record sound and play it back over and over again. As times got harder, music became a dependent object to get someone through a tough day. Music was one of the things that during this time could not be taken away, which some found great relief in.
Music is one of the things that has stayed active in everyday life. Depending on the genre that is being listened to, music can evoke many emotions such as: happiness, sadness, empowerment, calmness, etc. Listening to upbeat, happy songs releases a hormone in your brain called dopamine which is responsible for emotions. Dopamine is described as, “a chemical neurotransmitter that helps to control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers and is also used to help regulate movement and emotional responses. When listening to these songs, synapses in the brain are being flooded with these chemicals which result in the sudden change of mood. Studies have found that when listening to happy songs, the amount of dopamine had increased by 9%” (psychologytoday). Listening to music can make you feel happier and more relaxed. In a study, researchers studied patients that were about to undergo surgery and were randomly assigned to listen to music before surgery or take an anti-anxiety drug. They tracked the patient’s anxiety and stress levels and found that the patients that listened to music were less stressed and anxious than those that took the drugs. Music during The Great Depression was written to establish the mood of the people or used to take the public’s mind off all the hardships. Many people voiced their opinion through songwriting which resulted in many hit songs of that time. Songs such as “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?’, “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries” and “If I Ever Get a Job Again” were popular songs during the era. One artist, Cab Calloway, wrote songs in hopes to take people’s minds off of what was going on. These songs gave people hope for when the Great Depression was over that things would get better for themselves and the country.
Music today plays an important role in society. Not only can it set a mood, or bring someone relief in a time of need, but it also releases stimuli in the brain which releases a hormone that increases happiness and improves mood. Music during the Great Depression was commonly used for artists to voice the hardships that they were encountering to the public, and citizens took it as a way to forget about the horrible things that were going on in the US during that time. Today, music is used to talk about things that aren’t said in media often and artists often use music as an outlet so they can forget about possible heartbreak or their own misfortunes.
Article by May Graellos and Olivia Helbling
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