RhythmRhythm speeds up the blood prursese, breathing rate and pulse. Soon the body can’t resist the temptation to jump into action. Beta waves in the brain make a person react to the rhythm, first slowly, then progressively quicker, as the rhythm dictates. These vibrating impulses travel through the spinal cord towards the arm and leg muscles. Like a puppet on a string, the body wants – then starts to move. An upbeat tempo like “Jesus Christ, Superstar” leaves you with no choice: what begins with toe tapping and finger snapping, drives you to jump out of your chair to dance.Elisabeth Miles, who authored the book “TUNE YOUR BRAIN: Using music to manage your mind, body and mood” (Berkley Books) states that rhythmic movements create endorphins in the brain. These chemicals are the creators of the “feel-good feelings”.It’s therefore no coincidence, that the rhythmic bells at Christmas or the rapping of the drums at Nazi rallies, the cling-clang of the Hare Krishna or the pounding on a hollow tree trunk by a medicine man usurp a communal response to follow a leader. Call it the pied-piper syndrome.Adding happy lyrics to a rhythmic tune eases the primary intention of helping to memorize the music. But by no means are lyrics the most important of the two. Rhythm alone is enough to create the pied-piper effect. In the days that the liturgy was in Latin, songs were not understood by the masses. The tunes, however were easily assimilated, despite the absence of comprehension, because the melodies were hummed and the rhythm clapped which drilled the music into the churchgoer’s memory. Often gospel lyrics were corrupted with the native language to resemble a childlike nonsensical nursery rhyme.Researchers discovered that music doesn’t have to be happy to make a lasting effect on people. (I think suddenly of “The Lorelei” in “The Holocaust”). Sad, somber, melancholic, downbeat and depressing melodies, like the ones droned to death at funerals set people at ease and bring comfort and humbleness, as long as they are aesthetically high rated. “It is perceived as pleasurable, despite the sad content” remarks Valerie Stratton, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at the Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Stratton goes on to say that listening to smooth hum-like Gregorian chants is an effective method of relaxation, whether during group therapy or while on a solo walk in the woods. This explains the effect monasteries have had for centuries on the condition of mental patients. The soothing, simple, predictable rhythm patterns lower the blood prursese and muscle tension and slow the heart beat from a regular 75 beats a minute to a mere 50.Dr. Stratton also refers to the so called “Mozart-effect”: a background of Mozart sonatas has proven to improve performance on space-time reasoning tests. Unfortunately, the opposite has been evidenced to be true too. Tests suggest that overstimulating rhythms, with little or no creative value, stifle the perception and concentration of the test takers. When lyrics with incoherent subliminal messages were added, and repeated at high frequency, test takers were driven to annoyance and aggressive behavior.Like with the visual arts, religion has made efficient use of music throughout history. Even the denominations that forbid music in their services use the influence of rhythm on a person’s mood by means of the preacher’s speech pattern. A short-long boom and drone scheme of syllables by a preacher’s voice draws attention just as a concussion instrument does. The speech pattern is lessened to a basic beat. It is just as suggestive as the rhythm produced by a musical instrument and invites the congregation to join in with hand clapping, knee-jerking and hip swaying.Foremost though, religious leaders have made use of upbeat and downbeat music to alter the mood of the masses to fit their intentions and expectations, whether it be for saintly celebrations as an escape from the misery of poverty or for the preparations of war. Whether a musical composition is stormy and pounding or serene and fatigued, the church shepherds will go to great length to turn that tune into the right rhythm for their sheep to march on.