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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 August 6, 2020

    6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

    6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

    We’ve all done it. That moment when a series of words slithers from your mouth and the instant regret manifests through blushing and profuse apologies. If you could just think before you speak! It doesn’t have to be like this, and with a bit of practice, it’s actually quite easy to prevent.

    “Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” – Napolean Hill

    Are we speaking the same language?

    My mum recently left me a note thanking me for looking after her dog. She’d signed it with “LOL.” In my world, this means “laugh out loud,” and in her world it means “lots of love.” My kids tell me things are “sick” when they’re good, and ”manck” when they’re bad (when I say “bad,” I don’t mean good!). It’s amazing that we manage to communicate at all.

    When speaking, we tend to color our language with words and phrases that have become personal to us, things we’ve picked up from our friends, families and even memes from the internet. These colloquialisms become normal, and we expect the listener (or reader) to understand “what we mean.” If you really want the listener to understand your meaning, try to use words and phrases that they might use.

    Am I being lazy?

    When you’ve been in a relationship for a while, a strange metamorphosis takes place. People tend to become lazier in the way that they communicate with each other, with less thought for the feelings of their partner. There’s no malice intended; we just reach a “comfort zone” and know that our partners “know what we mean.”

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    Here’s an exchange from Psychology Today to demonstrate what I mean:

    Early in the relationship:

    “Honey, I don’t want you to take this wrong, but I’m noticing that your hair is getting a little thin on top. I know guys are sensitive about losing their hair, but I don’t want someone else to embarrass you without your expecting it.”

    When the relationship is established:

    “Did you know that you’re losing a lot of hair on the back of your head? You’re combing it funny and it doesn’t help. Wear a baseball cap or something if you feel weird about it. Lots of guys get thin on top. It’s no big deal.”

    It’s pretty clear which of these statements is more empathetic and more likely to be received well. Recognizing when we do this can be tricky, but with a little practice it becomes easy.

    Have I actually got anything to say?

    When I was a kid, my gran used to say to me that if I didn’t have anything good to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. My gran couldn’t stand gossip, so this makes total sense, but you can take this statement a little further and modify it: “If you don’t have anything to say, then don’t say anything at all.”

    A lot of the time, people speak to fill “uncomfortable silences,” or because they believe that saying something, anything, is better than staying quiet. It can even be a cause of anxiety for some people.

    When somebody else is speaking, listen. Don’t wait to speak. Listen. Actually hear what that person is saying, think about it, and respond if necessary.

    Am I painting an accurate picture?

    One of the most common forms of miscommunication is the lack of a “referential index,” a type of generalization that fails to refer to specific nouns. As an example, look at these two simple phrases: “Can you pass me that?” and “Pass me that thing over there!”. How often have you said something similar?

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    How is the listener supposed to know what you mean? The person that you’re talking to will start to fill in the gaps with something that may very well be completely different to what you mean. You’re thinking “pass me the salt,” but you get passed the pepper. This can be infuriating for the listener, and more importantly, can create a lack of understanding and ultimately produce conflict.

    Before you speak, try to label people, places and objects in a way that it is easy for any listeners to understand.

    What words am I using?

    It’s well known that our use of nouns and verbs (or lack of them) gives an insight into where we grew up, our education, our thoughts and our feelings.

    Less well known is that the use of pronouns offers a critical insight into how we emotionally code our sentences. James Pennebaker’s research in the 1990’s concluded that function words are important keys to someone’s psychological state and reveal much more than content words do.

    Starting a sentence with “I think…” demonstrates self-focus rather than empathy with the speaker, whereas asking the speaker to elaborate or quantify what they’re saying clearly shows that you’re listening and have respect even if you disagree.

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    Is the map really the territory?

    Before speaking, we sometimes construct a scenario that makes us act in a way that isn’t necessarily reflective of the actual situation.

    A while ago, John promised to help me out in a big way with a project that I was working on. After an initial meeting and some big promises, we put together a plan and set off on its execution. A week or so went by, and I tried to get a hold of John to see how things were going. After voice mails and emails with no reply and general silence, I tried again a week later and still got no response.

    I was frustrated and started to get more than a bit vexed. The project obviously meant more to me than it did to him, and I started to construct all manner of crazy scenarios. I finally got through to John and immediately started a mild rant about making promises you can’t keep. He stopped me in my tracks with the news that his brother had died. If I’d have just thought before I spoke…

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