Author Identifier

Ronniet Orlando

Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Arts and Humanities

First Supervisor

Professor Craig Speelman

Second Supervisor

Professor Anne Wilkinson

Third Supervisor

Dr Veer Gupta

Fourth Supervisor

Professor Ralph Martins


Listening to music brings health benefits, according to an expanding opus of empirical research. Studies to date cover a wide range of music interventions and outcome measures. Music has been applied to healthy participants, as well as clinical populations to target anxiety and pain. But little is known about whether live music is more effective than recorded music as an intervention for these common symptoms.

This exploratory study sought answers with the emerging science of saliva analysis, which focuses on biomarkers that indicate stress and immune function. In this case salivary cortisol, alpha-amylase, immunoglobulin-A, interleukin- 1beta, and pH levels were measured. Saliva samples from 50 university students and 23 palliative care and surgical patients were compared before and after each participant listened to a live (ML), audiovisual (MAV) or audio recorded (MA) standardised program of classical music played on a solo violin, viola or cello. Live (SL) or audio (SA) story readings were added as interventions to control for psychosocial variables. Saliva’s non-invasive, repeatable, objective psychoneuroendocrine (PNE) snapshots were supplemented with subjective visual analogue scales for anxiety (VASA) and pain (VASP), and self-report affect scales to rate liking, perceived and felt emotion, and absorption. Participants were also asked for a one-word summary of their listening experience.

It was anticipated that ML would reduce anxiety and pain, as well as boost the immune markers, more than MAV and MA, and that music overall would demonstrate stronger benefits than the story readings.

No single outcome measure provided sufficient data to draw conclusions, but trends in the melange of both objective and subjective instruments revealed that overall more positive health indicators arose from live music than recorded music, particularly in the clinical settings. Stories were also shown to have some moderating effects on pain and anxiety. This study demonstrated the therapeutic values of music as well as story readings, and the superior benefits of live music and stories compared to audio recordings of the same presentations.

The PNE methodology had some limitations, particularly with the clinical population, resulting in gaps in the patients’ biomarker data. Some differential results highlighted the value of using a kaleidoscope of both objective and subjective outcome measures to gain a fuller understanding of the complex cognitive, emotional, neural, hormonal, and biopsychosocial processes involved in music’s beneficial effects.