Ep. 103: Is there a dark side to the power of music? With Brea Murakami, MM, MT-BC

Darth Vader

Photo by Tommy van Kessel on Unsplash

If music is so powerful, can it also cause harm? We discuss music-induced harm (MIH – yes, it’s a thing!) with music therapist, psychologist, and researcher Brea Murakami.

Brea Murakami, MM, MT-BC
Brea Murakami, MM, MT-BC


My guest today is Brea Murakami, MM, MT-BC is a board-certified music therapist and the Director of Music Therapy at Pacific University Oregon. Brea earned her master’s degree in music therapy from the University of Miami and dual degrees in music therapy and psychology from Chapman University. Her clinical work has focused on older adult care and neurorehabilitation. Brea hosts a music science podcast called Instru(mental) and writes the music therapy blog I’m a Music Therapist.


We discuss:

  • Our question today is, if music is so powerful, is there a dark side to this power? Does music have the ability to cause harm?
  • How this subject first caught Brea’s attention, and what piqued her interest in the topic.
  • Music-induced harm, which goes by the acronym MIH(!).
  • What are some of the negative manifestations of music’s power?
    • Overstimulation
    • Hearing Loss
    • Memory Triggering
    • Emotional Flooding
    • Anxiety
    • Aggressive behavior
    • Torture, including in Guantanamo Bay
    • Gang use of drill music
    • Hate music
  • Relationship of song lyrics.
  • How some creative businesses are using unruly teens’ dislike of certain music to their advantage!
  • Definition of “harm”.
  • Brea has been exploring this topic and working on a conceptual model on music therapy and harm for several years. Her article about the potential for harm with music was just published in late June!

 Connect/Other Resources

  • Twitter: @BreaMurakami or @instrumentalpod
  • Brea’s Instru(mental) podcast
  • Brea’s I’m a Music Therapist blog
  • Brea’s Pacific University Oregon faculty page
  • Brea has been exploring this topic and working on a conceptual model on music therapy and harm for several years. Her article about the potential for harm with music was just published in late June and is available here! (The article is in a journal housed in Argentina, and the article is available in both English and Spanish.)
  • Also see:
  • We discussed the following episodes in our conversation:
    • Ep. 88: It Hurts So Good: When and why is sad music enjoyed? With Kimberly Sena Moore, PhD, MT-BC
    • Ep. 45: Laurie Berkner describes music’s stabilizing effect for children during uncertain times, and serenades her graduating childhood fans
    • Ep. 71: Give the gift of music: Research-based ways to GIFT music (the gift that keeps on giving)
  • I reference this LA Times article: In situations where teenagers have tended to gather and have troublesome behavior, classical music has been played to get them to leave. This strategy has been used in Public libraries, malls, transit stations and even certain McDonalds and 7-Elevens! There are a couple theories – one is that teens dislike this music, so hearing it suppresses dopamine, “the pleasure chemical.” And as teenagers’ moods fall, they go elsewhere to find something to bring it back up. Another theory is that classical music has a soothing, peaceful affect, it neutralizes aggressive and destructive behavior.
  • We mention the book, The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman

In-Episode Promo

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Brea says: We know that certain songs can take on really personal, deep meanings for our identities and life stories. Several years ago, I decided to make a musical gift for my family that would allow us to share about ourselves in a new, deeper way through music. I asked everyone in my family (about 10 of us in all) to tell me the name of a song that had been really meaningful to them in their life. My dad chose “What a Wonderful World,” an uncle of mine chose a song that reminded him of a friend who had passed away, and a cousin chose “Tiny Dancer,” which she had loved in high school.

Then, I recorded myself singing all the songs with guitar and put the recordings on CD that everyone got a copy of. When we got together for Christmas, we played the CD in the background while we all had snacks and chatted. No one knew what songs other people had chosen, so when each new song started, it was fun to guess who had chosen each song and hear the story behind why it was so meaningful to them and connect to parts of each others’ lives that we might otherwise not have gotten to know.

Closing Words

Thanks so much to Brea for sharing her research with us today. Brea’s article about the potential for harm with music WAS published in late June and is now available; there is a link in the show notes. Enhance Life with Music’s 2nd birthday is coming up in August! I would love to have you help us celebrate by giving us the best BD gift ever – voting to nominate us for The People’s Choice Podcast Award! Just go to https://www.podcastawards.com/ and click the blue button to vote. Scroll to the Music category and select Enhance Life with Music. Voting ends July 31, 2021. A huge thank-you goes to listeners Bob Bender, Pavle Marinković, and Erik Peterson who have told me they have already put in their votes! As always, you’ll find a transcription of this episode in the show notes. And you’ll find me on email (mindy@mpetersonmusic.com), Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. All links are on my website and in the episode details right in your podcast app. Thank you so much for joining me today. Until next week, may your life be enhanced with music.

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