Music and the Mind

IMG_2754What is the one thing we, as humans, seem to run to when we get an override of emotions? When we’re too sad — overly happy… Even when celebrating something? Music, of course! But why? Music has the ability to calm us of whatever we need calming from, or raise us back to a state where we can feel these emotions again, after sitting numb. How does it do this, though? What is the secret to music that seems to posses some sort of lull on our minds, so that we just cannot get enough of it? Maybe some secret magic all musicians posses when they craft a melody, something they weave into the notes with spider-like legs to enrapture our minds? Or maybe it’s something else — maybe it’s not what is in the music that seems so attractive to our brains, but what is in our brains that is so attracted to the music.

DSC_0717Maybe they work in the same way stories do. Like when you use a book to escape into another world. Surely, there must be something else behind it, though? After all, not everyone reads books, and not everyone reads fantasies; the ones that truly allow you to escape. No, but everyone these days seems to be listening to some form of music or another. When walking in the streets, even some of the eldest people seem to have headphones in. So what is it about music that entrances us so much?

As it turns out, music is far more complicated than it seems. When listening to music, many things happen in our brains at once, without us consciously realizing it. It actually triggers parts of the brain, allowing it to release chemicals produced when acting on seeking pleasure-rewards. This means, music releases the same chemicals produced when seeking pleasure, such as when consuming food.

That still, however, does not exactly explain why our brains release this when listening to music. After all, most other animals do, in fact, have increases in this chemical (dopamine) when partaking in the same things humans do to release it. Except for listening to music, apparently.

 

So why is it solely something that happens to humans? As of now, not enough research has been done to figure it out, but there are some pretty interesting theories. One of mine, for example, is that it has something to do with our evolution. Since the dawn of time, it seems, humans have found ways to create music, particularly for the sake of dancing. Whether it be spiritual dancing, or dancing in social situations, perhaps this has something to do with why the dopamine is released. After all, dancing for whatever reason is rewarding and good for the body, and if it’s done for the sake of social activity, it would make sense why our bodies and brains would find it quite pleasurable. Though, that still does not quite explain why some people have much more of a reception or passion for music, something that is probably just based on your personality and interests. It’s only a thought, and there are many more possibilities as to why this strange phenomenon occurs.DSC_0723

Either way, music is another thing I’ve discovered on a more personal level recently. Particularly classical and instrumental music. Although, for some reason, every time I used to tell anyone that I did (and have started again), in fact, listen to classical music they would scoff and look at me like I was insane.

I do not think they quite understand what it means, however. Music has changed so much throughout human history, that it seems strange for anyone to still prefer classical, or solely piano pieces opposed to Hotline Bling, or whatever-it’s-called, because that seems to be what our generation would rather listen to. Maybe I’m just an old soul, trapped in a young body, but I find that often classical music has much more meaning. So often the composers were beaten as children, or the players — the real players, the ones who put all they have into every piece they play, and can convey so much emotion through a single note — have been through so much. It brings so much more to the music, and allows you to escape into a completely different world.

Before I get to philosophical, I think I’ll go back to listening to “Winter Wind by Chopin, as it’s certainly one of my favourites and something I cannot stop listening to. Happy playing!

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