It’s something that’s kinda fascinating. Music has the power to move you, make you tap your feet, bop, sing, hum, dance and more. Everyone has a different taste in music, some have an eclectic taste and others stick to what they know. Some function better with music, others without. Some people are moved by what they hear, some gain deep insights, reflect, gain respect or generally shift their attitudes depending on what they hear.
Take Pop music, which is easy to consume and the most prolific. As the fast food of the music industry it’s mass produced, cheap and relatively lacking in any form of nourishment.
Is music food for the soul, or is it a reflection of the soul. Whichever way you think about it, music has a profound impact on a human. Take Pop music, which is easy to consume and the most prolific. As the fast food of the music industry it’s mass produced, cheap and relatively lacking in any form of nourishment. The true ‘music connoisseur’ might catch the occasional moving element to a pop song, much like the good tasting vegetarian gnocchi that you thought had meat in it, while others will see many pop songs as the most amazeballs thing they have ever heard in their whole lives ever.
The hipster music scene (not singling you folks out, I promise I’ve thought of words I haven’t written yet) is interesting. Friends of mine actively seek out what I feel is the most bizzare and painful music to listen to, yet I’m convinced if I listen to Vampire Weekend too long I’ll probably like it. Punk, in it’s attempt to be anti establishment, became the establishment and we were promised rock would corrupt our teens, but Don McClean flipped it all on it’s head and asked if it’d save our mortal soul.
Physically speaking music offers us nothing. Stuck on a deserted island with nothing but your iPod, it would only be a few days before you hated yourself for loading the entire Depeche Mode catalogue, if the battery even lasted that long. It would probably be a tragic race to the death, between you and your iPod battery. The cultist in you eventually believing Jobs built some kind of Cylon resurrection ship into every one ever built.
So what is it that makes you well up, get angry, move faster, cheer up, get sad, reflect or get nostalgic when you listen to music? Neurologically speaking in your brain there are some intensely pleasurable responses to music which correlate with activity in regions implicated in reward and emotion. Ok, so basically the tones, sounds and vibrations being passed between Grooveshark and your brain equates to a uniquely pleasurable experience, triggering all kinds of ‘nice’ feelings. Let’s not forget though, they are merely vibrations, tones, samples and other pieces of noise all put together into a pleasurable package of vibrating air. Weird.
There’s plenty of evidence around music and memory, we know that music is attributed to memory triggers, explaining why when you listen to music regularly some folks associate mental pictures, scenes or ‘clips’ in their head to various pieces or subsets of music. Then there’s also the use of music in the treatment of dementia and in those with psychological issues.
Bass, perhaps one of my favourite parts of music, is a low frequency vibration that travels quite far over the rest of the frequencies generated in music. It’s why you can hear the local ‘doof doof’ cars well before you can see them and what gives them their distinctive sound. Bass, is the part of music you feel in your stomach ‘deep’ down because it penetrates further, something perhaps all the unborn children of the world feel first. When we listen to music on speakers, or live, bass is the vibration that goes the farthest, the slowest, high pitched tones travel fast but are short lived, so each and every individual person in the crowd experiences a song differently. Cool huh? Deaf people feel plenty of music. Using visual influences around them to piece together a totally different and unique experience. It gives us all confidence that Dubstep sounds like two robots having angry sex, to everyone.
The power of music is even recognised by some serious researchers, Oxford put out a handbook on music for psychology and it’s not limited to the hearing enabled. It’s been found that music does alter mood states, improve relaxation, affects language acquisition, literacy, numeracy, measures of intelligence, concentration and emotional sensitivity – amongst other things. Music stimulates the right side of the brain as a creative element, but also the left side, your brain seemingly enjoys and derives a great deal of pleasure out of listening to it. And then there are braingasms, or the autonomous sensory meridian response as it’s more formally known, which are small ‘events’ described as an orgasm of the brain which is triggered by things like, sounds.
So think about it, the next time you’re listening to music and ask yourself, is this pleasurable, why, what part of it is most pleasurable and what does my brain want to do, because after all, you may have one hand in your pocket, but the other one could very well be playing the piano.