Music For Mindfulness: A Locally-produced Album Made To Reduce Stress And Anxiety

The power of music.
2 March 2023

For generations, music has been a quintessential part of life. From commutes to kicking back at the end of a long day, our favourite artistes give their creative prowess through soothing melodies and uplifting lyrics to millions around the world for the sake of entertainment. 

That’s the power of music – a few minutes of sweet beats can totally change how we feel. Likewise at TENG, a not-for-profit Singapore-born arts company, the idea of merging both wellness and song has culminated into their newest album called the “Music for Mindfulness”. 

Photo Credit: TENG

The album, which took three years to produce and backed by scientific studies, consists of 10 songs that embodies TENG’s signature East-West sound through traditional Chinese instruments. These songs were also produced as a way to reduce stress and anxiety as the listener progresses through the album with the help of binaural beats.

What is that exactly? VibeCheck spoke to TENG’s creative director Dr Samuel Wong to find out more about binaural beats, the science behind it and how it truly benefits when it comes to music and our wellbeing.

What are binaural beats?

Dr Wong: Binaural beats are auditory illusions and you actually have to hear them via headphones. So if you listen to 300 hertz on the left ear and 305 hertz on the right ear, the brain cannot take the imbalance. 

The brain creates a third tone, which is in the middle of the head and it is the difference between the frequencies, in this case it would be five hertz. So this five hertz is what we call the binaural beat and it will actually cause your brain to relax involuntarily. 

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Binaural beats can be divided into many different types of categories. They are the gamma beats, the Alpha beats, and then towards the lower range, there’s the theta and delta beats, which are associated with deep sleep and relaxation. So we experimented with these two beats with the Singapore Institute of Technology.

TENG conducted a study with SIT to test the effectiveness of binaural beats, tell us more about that.

Dr Wong: We created a prototype that lasted about 30 minutes or so, and we ran it across 150 students. This is the largest scale binaural beats study in the whole entire world. 

We did this by dividing the students, 50 were exposed to the TENG’s music with binaural beats, another 50 were exposed to TENG’s music without the binaural beats and the last 50 students listened to an audio book, which was very boring with the purpose of putting someone to sleep. 

Photo Credit: Unsplash

We measured two different types of things: psychological and physiological findings. Psychologically, we ask them questions like the state of anxiety such as how relaxed they were. We also measured their heart rate as well as their sweat conductance like a lie detector test – the latter shows how stressed you are. 

Through the study, we found that there was a greater reduction in stress and anxiety for those who listened to TENG’s music with binaural beats.

How did the idea for an anxiety-reducing album come about? 

Dr Wong: As a researcher, I've known about this technology called binaural beats, but I've never actually had the chance to work in depth on it. I've come across a lot of articles and research about it, extolling its benefits. 

But it was during the pandemic, when all of us were locked down and we couldn't go out to do our normal performances. Suddenly, I thought it might be a really good idea to actually start doing research on binaural beats to alleviate the stress and anxiety from people, especially when it comes to youth mental health, which was coming up during this period of time. 

Photo Credit: Unsplash

And, to bring anxiety-reducing music into people's homes, hospitals, and dialysis centres as part of music therapy without going physically into the homes because during the pandemic, we were not allowed to go into homes with patients. 

The album’s sequence is locked, why is that?

Dr Wong: While there are no known side effects to binaural beats, they are very difficult to listen to because they are tones. Nobody actually listens to a tone, it's very painful to listen to it. So TENG worked with music therapists to combine both western technology of binaural beats and eastern technology, which comprises the five tones in Chinese music to create the album.

Photo Credit: Unsplash

We composed the musical journey according to the pitch – starting with the theta beats to the delta beats – and it goes downwards because when your body is exposed directly to the Delta beats, it's a bit of a shock.

Why is music an important tool in life? 

Dr Wong: So, in my work, and my research as creative director of TENG, we play for hospitals and hospices where people have less than three months to live and I've discovered that the last sense to go is the sense of hearing. 

In the understanding of this, it is also the last sense that you can use to transform one's idea as a way of communication. Music has that transformative experience and it has that transformative experiment. And because of that, I truly believe music is one of the most important things that we need in life. 

Photo Credit: Unsplash

A lot of people may or may not feel it and think “oh, it's just music, you can just listen to it on the radio” but when you are at the last part of your life, music is the only thing that people can use to communicate from one family member to another family member, then that becomes very powerful.

Music for Mindfulness is available exclusively on iTunes at $14.80, with individual tracks available at $1.48 each. More information on Music for Mindfulness can be found here.

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