Power of music can inspire

It’s a few days after Halloween, but we’ve still got a bit of scary on our minds.

Free weekends and relaxed evenings were hard to come by in October, so we moved some of our October scare-fest into this weekend.

We love movies. We’ve been known to park ourselves on a comfy sofa on a rainy Saturday, draw the drapes, surround ourselves with plush throws and maybe a cat or two, fire up the Netflix queue and settle in. Starting around the middle of October, we find ourselves looking for some good, scary horror films.

One of the scarier films from this year’s fest is “The Conjuring,” new this year. Based on a true story, it opens with a family moving into a new home in the country. The mother, father and five daughters work well together during the move, and the daughters start exploring the old, expansive house with a game of hide-and-clap (a version of hide-and-seek that sounds good, but that I’m pretty sure would regularly involve damage to furniture, walls, and all manner of decorative accessories as the seeker is blindfolded through the entire game).

While the girls are playing, we get the view from the backyard. Apparently, buying power in the 1970s, when the movie takes place, was such that a truck driver, a stay-at-home mom and five children could afford a very large, well-kept home on a multi-acre lot. On a lake, with a dock. On the East Coast. Economics aside, it’s a gorgeous piece of property.

From the dock, we see gently rippling water, the big, old oak tree; the sweeping lawn; the back of the house with its porch; and a balcony. And then, instantly, you just know that it’s all going to go wrong. In a scary bad way. Because that’s when the music starts. You know, the music that tells you the killer is close, the shark is about to surface, or the music the person walking into the dark cellar somehow doesn’t hear. But we hear it. The oak tree now looks dark, twisted, ominous. You can practically see fog rolling in around the house even though, visually, nothing has changed.

And that got us thinking about the power of music and how it works in our brains.

Typically, you don’t really notice the scoring in a movie. But emotionally, you go where the music takes you. The score reveals or deepens the feeling the director wants you to have during a scene.

According to Daniel J. Levitin, author of “This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession,” music you enjoy can be a shortcut to pleasure and motivation.

“The rewarding and reinforcing aspects of listening to music seem, then, to be mediated by increasing dopamine levels in the nucleus accumbens, and by the cerebellum’s contribution to regulating emotion through its connections to the frontal lobe and the limbic system,” Levitin said.

Wow. Music’s path through the brain touches every part in the cycle of planning, doing and evaluating.


Think of a business situation where, in order to meet a challenge, you need to be on top of your game, focused, unstoppable. As you prepare, you might think of a theme song for this particular test. Because music affects us emotionally, sometimes the best music to score an event is one that reminds you of a time when we were so focused, so on point that nothing short of an earthquake could distract you from your mission. 

How about creating playlists labeled by event type to support you when you need it most?

Sometimes you need to bring the troops together (“Come on people, smile on your brother…”); other times you might want to stroll into a meeting to the theme song from The Sopranos (“Woke up this morning…”).

Spending the afternoon tied to your desk, determined to finally finish the dreaded monthly report? Well, maybe Mozart is what you need to keep your spirits up. Then again, maybe the driving beat of Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” will just push you right through it.  

What anthem wakes up your brain and takes your body along for the ride? Let your mind belt it out as you stride in to work tomorrow. Bring it on; it’s a good day. Scary good.

• Anne Ward and Bob Sandidge, of CreativeCore Media in Algonquin, are marketing, communication, management and training consultants who help small business and nonprofits overcome the marketing and motivational myths that are keeping them and their businesses from unbounded success. Reach them at or go to

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