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If You Think Music Is Just an Entertainment, You’re Living in a Nutshell

If You Think Music Is Just an Entertainment, You’re Living in a Nutshell

We have all been in this situation. You’re in some bar or club, the music is loud, you’re not in the mood to dance. But while the track plays, you notice your fingers tapping, or your head nodding, or your knees bending to the music. To wallflower guy like me, it can cause all kinds of awkwardness.

But why is this? Why can something inherently artificial like music, especially electronic music, cause an almost unconscious physical reaction in people? And also why dance? What benefits does it have? These are questions that have been in my mind a lot lately, so, I began to explore.

When we’re tapping our fingers, something’s happening in our brains.

What is interesting, is that dancing seems to appear in many cultures, without influence from each other. Culture X may have a totally different musical style from culture Y, yet they may at times find themselves moving to the rhythm of their music.

Consider the different kinds of First Nation tribal dances, and European forms, though different in style and motive, they generally form the same function and basically boil down to rhythmic moving to music. Going back thousands of years, there was even a dance culture in ancient Egypt.[1] Dancing then is totally human.

You don’t need to look far to see more evidence of this, babies, with no real cultural expectation or conditioning dance to music (though…not very well).

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On a deeper level, scientists have found that music stimulates certain regions of the brain, particularly the Ventral Striatum, and the Orbitofrontal Cortex.[2] These parts of the brain are key regions generating pleasure, emotional responses and rewarding them. Interestingly these parts of the brain are more stimulated if you like certain songs.

    There are some suggestions that motor regions of our brain are also attuned to this, and also that motor regions of the brain are somewhat triggered when we see others moving. So you may be more likely to dance when others are around you dancing. It is understood that the body derives pleasure from movement. So when this is combined with the subconscious pleasure also got from music, you essentially get double the pleasure response.

    Music is a combination of rhythm and melody. (But we know it’s more than that.)

    Deep down all music is creatively arranged vibrations.[3] These vibrations arranged in pitch, tempo, rhythm, harmony, and melody.[4] Different instruments and the human voice form these vibrations differently, but fundamentally, music is sound, and sound is vibration.

    But this kind of explanation takes all the fun out of it.

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    Pointing out that the Mona Lisa is just bits of color on a canvas, or that John Coltrane was just really good at manipulating vibrations, doesn’t explain why millions of people go to the Louve gallery specifically to see the Mona Lisa or why Coltrane was one of the best Jazz (Jazz of course originating as a fusion of multiple international musical styles) performers of all time.[5]

    There is something else.

    Music is more than just a form of entertainment.

    Generally we consider music either a mere form of entertainment, something brought and used like a good film or video game. At best we see music as just an art form, perhaps the cooler, more popular cousin (who gets invited to all the good parties) of literature.

    However I would go so far to say that music is closer to a form of communication, one that exceeds all cultural boundaries.

    For example, I admit it, I am a really into folk and roots music. Lately I’ve been listening to the Norwegian folksinger Siri Nielsen, her voice is angelic….and I have no idea what she is singing about. If I pick up a book published in a language I can’t read (which is pretty much all languages) then it is inaccessible. But this is not the case with music.

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    All cultures throughout history have had some form of musical culture. This is a nice idea, the next time you listen to your favorite band, or a good piece of music, you’re involved in an activity that humans have done throughout all history.

    And maybe the creation of music is to change people’s mood and mind.

    People have been trying to answer that answer for centuries. Charles Darwin for example proposed that music was invented as a kind of sophisticated come on, like some animal mating ritual. This makes sense as the majority of popular music are love songs, or straight up unambiguously about sex.[6]

    Another popular theory, the theory I personally agree with, was that music was created as a way to form social groups.[7] We often see music now as an individual experience.

    We’re used to being by ourselves, blasting out our favorite song. Thanks to headphones, we can be surrounded by people, but be the only one to hear music. Because of this, it is easy to forget, that prior to the invention and popularity of recorded sound, the only way to listen to music was to hear it live.

    We still love the social aspect of music, we can hear our favorite band in perfect sound quality for a fraction of the price, but few would ever say that listening to an MP3 is a better experience than seeing the band live.

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    This is why we love music and dancing, it is the total humanity of it. Our core biology reacts and gives us pleasure from the music we love, and the music we love brings us together. This is something music has always done, and always will do, and why music matters.

    Infographic credit: FineMinds

    Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

    Reference

    [1] University of Birmingham: Communication Through Music in Ancient Egyptian Religion
    [2] Scientific American: Why do we like to dance–And move to the beat?
    [3] Psychology Today: What is Music Exactly?
    [4] mfiles: What is music?
    [5] The New York Times: The Prehistory of Jazz The Africanization of American Music
    [6] BBC: Is Music Really All About Sex?
    [7] National Geographic: Why Did Humans Invent Music?

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    Last Updated on December 3, 2019

    10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

    10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

    There are so many lessons I wish I had learned while I was young enough to appreciate and apply them. The thing with wisdom, and often with life lessons in general, is that they’re learned in retrospect, long after we needed them. The good news is that other people can benefit from our experiences and the lessons we’ve learned.

    Here’re 10 important life lessons you should learn early on:

    1. Money Will Never Solve Your Real Problems

    Money is a tool; a commodity that buys you necessities and some nice “wants,” but it is not the panacea to your problems.

    There are a great many people who are living on very little, yet have wonderfully full and happy lives… and there are sadly a great many people are living on quite a lot, yet have terribly miserable lives.

    Money can buy a nice home, a great car, fabulous shoes, even a bit of security and some creature comforts, but it cannot fix a broken relationship, or cure loneliness, and the “happiness” it brings is only fleeting and not the kind that really and truly matters. Happiness is not for sale. If you’re expecting the “stuff” you can buy to “make it better,” you will never be happy.

    2. Pace Yourself

    Often when we’re young, just beginning our adult journey we feel as though we have to do everything at once. We need to decide everything, plan out our lives, experience everything, get to the top, find true love, figure out our life’s purpose, and do it all at the same time.

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    Slow down—don’t rush into things. Let your life unfold. Wait a bit to see where it takes you, and take time to weigh your options. Enjoy every bite of food, take time to look around you, let the other person finish their side of the conversation. Allow yourself time to think, to mull a bit.

    Taking action is critical. Working towards your goals and making plans for the future is commendable and often very useful, but rushing full-speed ahead towards anything is a one-way ticket to burnout and a good way to miss your life as it passes you by.

    3. You Can’t Please Everyone

    “I don’t know the secret to success, but the secret to failure is trying to please everyone” – Bill Cosby.

    You don’t need everyone to agree with you or even like you. It’s human nature to want to belong, to be liked, respected and valued, but not at the expense of your integrity and happiness. Other people cannot give you the validation you seek. That has to come from inside.

    Speak up, stick to your guns, assert yourself when you need to, demand respect, stay true to your values.

    4. Your Health Is Your Most Valuable Asset

    Health is an invaluable treasure—always appreciate, nurture, and protect it. Good health is often wasted on the young before they have a chance to appreciate it for what it’s worth.

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    We tend to take our good health for granted, because it’s just there. We don’t have to worry about it, so we don’t really pay attention to it… until we have to.

    Heart disease, bone density, stroke, many cancers—the list of many largely preventable diseases is long, so take care of your health now, or you’ll regret it later on.

    5. You Don’t Always Get What You Want

    “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

    No matter how carefully you plan and how hard you work, sometimes things just don’t work out the way you want them to… and that’s okay.

    We have all of these expectations; predetermined visions of what our “ideal” life will look like, but all too often, that’s not the reality of the life we end up with. Sometimes our dreams fail and sometimes we just change our minds mid-course. Sometimes we have to flop to find the right course and sometimes we just have to try a few things before we find the right direction.

    6. It’s Not All About You

    You are not the epicenter of the universe. It’s very difficult to view the world from a perspective outside of your own, since we are always so focused on what’s happening in our own lives. What do I have to do today? What will this mean for me, for my career, for my life? What do I want?

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    It’s normal to be intensely aware of everything that’s going on in your own life, but you need to pay as much attention to what’s happening around you, and how things affect other people in the world as you do to your own life. It helps to keep things in perspective.

    7. There’s No Shame in Not Knowing

    No one has it all figured out. Nobody has all the answers. There’s no shame in saying “I don’t know.” Pretending to be perfect doesn’t make you perfect. It just makes you neurotic to keep up the pretense of manufactured perfection.

    We have this idea that there is some kind of stigma or shame in admitting our limitations or uncertainly, but we can’t possibly know everything. We all make mistakes and mess up occasionally. We learn as we go, that’s life.

    Besides—nobody likes a know-it-all. A little vulnerability makes you human and oh so much more relatable.

    8. Love Is More Than a Feeling; It’s a Choice

    That burst of initial exhilaration, pulse quickening love and passion does not last long. But that doesn’t mean long-lasting love is not possible.

    Love is not just a feeling; it’s a choice that you make every day. We have to choose to let annoyances pass, to forgive, to be kind, to respect, to support, to be faithful.

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    Relationships take work. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s incredibly hard. It is up to us to choose how we want to act, think and speak in a relationship.

    9. Perspective Is a Beautiful Thing

    Typically, when we’re worried or upset, it’s because we’ve lost perspective. Everything that is happening in our lives seems so big, so important, so do or die, but in the grand picture, this single hiccup often means next to nothing.

    The fight we’re having, the job we didn’t get, the real or imagined slight, the unexpected need to shift course, the thing we wanted, but didn’t get. Most of it won’t matter 20, 30, 40 years from now. It’s hard to see long term when all you know is short term, but unless it’s life-threatening, let it go, and move on.

    10. Don’t Take Anything for Granted

    We often don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone: that includes your health, your family and friends, your job, the money you have or think you will have tomorrow.

    When you’re young, it seems that your parents will always be there, but they won’t. You think you have plenty of time to get back in touch with your old friends or spend time with new ones, but you don’t. You have the money to spend, or you think you’ll have it next month, but you might not.

    Nothing in your life is not guaranteed to be there tomorrow, including those you love.

    This is a hard life lesson to learn, but it may be the most important of all: Life can change in an instant. Make sure you appreciate what you have, while you still have it.

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    Featured photo credit: Ben Eaton via unsplash.com

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