There are many ways in which music affects and surrounds us. It is our creative outlet, our passion, our distraction, our night out or simply our moment of relaxation. Throughout the centuries, music has played a vital role in our lives. We as a society immerse ourselves in music day to day. From grandiose social gatherings and dances in the Middle Ages, to live concerts and monumental performances to date. Music is in films to elicit emotion and in television commercials to make us consumers of the newest technology. More importantly, it is in our preferred listening device because we choose the particular songs and artists we like and want to hear. The Marriam-Webster dictionary defines music as “sounds that are sung by voices or played on musical instruments; the art or skill of creating or performing music.” But why do we choose attend the Bruce Springsteen concert at Wrigley Field and not the Chicago Symphony Orchestra? What makes us enjoy one type of music or artist and not another? Whether you make music or simply enjoy it by listening to it, we are all connected to music in a variety of ways.
When we listen to music a number of things occur: we process sound through the auditory complex, an artist’s movement through the visual cortex, dancing and other rhythmical movement through the cerebellum. The Motor Cortex also enables movement such as foot tapping or hand clapping. Our Hippocampus stores our experiences through music and enables musicians to remember musical pieces. Finally, the Amygdala allows for emotional reactions to music. Because music is a combination of our different senses, we as individuals can process things differently and naturally we will like some genres more than others. Music is one of the only forms of art that is processed by our many senses and by both hemispheres of our brain.
In his book This is your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession, Professor Daniel J. Levitin goes into detail from a neurological perspective on how music affects our brain, our thoughts, our minds and our spirits. Levitin is a Neuroscientist and Professor of Music Perception, Cognition and Expertise at McGill University, in Canada. From that tone which triggers the association of a sound to a scene from a film, to specific chords and scales that are prominent in different cultures, our brains are begin to absorb these sounds from a very young age.
‘Our brains are maximally receptive-almost spongelike-when we’re young, hungrily soaking up any and all sounds they can and incorporating them into the very structure of our neural wiring. As we age, these neural circuits are somewhat less pliable, and so it becomes more difficult to incorporate, at a deep neural level, new musical systems, or even new linguistic systems.’
Perhaps this is why as we go through changes in life, we find ourselves listening to the music we really enjoy and are familiar with. We may be less likely to explore new types of music if we are...