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Thread: Why do we like music?

  1. #1 Why do we like music? 
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    http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/cu...odern-art.html

    There is a strong case that most pleasures we have in life are derived from basic instinct; to survive and reproduce well. For example we take pleasure in good food. Fashion is a means of attracting the opposite sex. With money comes power, status and an overall higher quality of life.

    But what of music? It has no logical link to our primitive instincts and evolution. I have actually read that monkeys do not distinguish between Mozart and heavy techno, though always choose silence if given the option. Why is it that we humans enjoy unwinding with an ipod, or dancing in a club? What exactly makes music appeal to us?


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    When put that way, why don't we say that art and music are there to relax us. It does relax me. After all, having "peace of mind" kind of is important for survival, especially in modern world....
    As for cannibalism, you can never know. Perhaps in the distant past, people who are cannibalistic had no other choice but to eat human meat to survive.


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    But how does it relax us? Why? How did we alone evolve so that our bodies are affected that way?
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    Well, let's see (I'm just guessing though), if you ask me, the more humanity developed, the more stressful life became. So, with that, there had to develop something anti-stressful. In the beginning, painting, as well as any sort of sounds, were used as means of communication. As humanity developed, so did those sounds and paintings, right? We have proves for that. So, as humanity developed, so did our moral stands. Sometimes, expressing your true feelings and opinions just wasn't acceptable. And there, develops the need to express your self in a different, hidden way. Picasso painted the initials of his lovers hidden inside the pictures, Petrarca wrote sonnets to his Laura, because he wasn't allowed to love her etc.... Now days, we just express our frustrations through art, music.... Why do these hidden emotions relax us? Well, perhaps there's a relief in knowing there are people who feel like we do....
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    ...I think that is because the human being has a strong sense for BEAUTY...
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    Stephen Pinker (in an interview with Dawkins) has suggested that listening to the sounds we hear in music may have been a way of learning to distinguish between various tones. This makes evolutionary sense because our ancestors would have likely utilized mating calls, warning calls, etc and would have needed to have been able to express emotions and thoughts without the benefit of speech. The grunts and moans of rock stars are perhaps relics of the past...
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    ...it is also very interesting that everyone likes different music however there are lots of similarities...

    Did you know that musical notes mapped from the heartbeat data, also results in interesting music?

    http://polymer.bu.edu/music/
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  9. #8 Re: Why do we like music? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by taniamaria
    But what of music? It has no logical link to our primitive instincts and evolution.
    You mean how did this apparent instinct help our survival "in the wild" so to speak?

    Did you know that hiking guides around my parts of the woods recommend singing or whistling - i.e. making music - so that bear may hear us coming and know what we are (only the human species produces such calls)... and make a dignified exit rather than surprise confrontation? The hiking guides say this can shift the line between life and death.

    So... why do skunks like to waddle around with their tails held high? Saves them a lot of trouble doesn't it?
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  10. #9 Music for emotion automation 
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    Quote Originally Posted by gottspieler
    Stephen Pinker (in an interview with Dawkins) has suggested that listening to the sounds we hear in music may have been a way of learning to distinguish between various tones. This makes evolutionary sense because our ancestors would have likely utilized mating calls, warning calls, etc and would have needed to have been able to express emotions and thoughts without the benefit of speech. The grunts and moans of rock stars are perhaps relics of the past...
    I am person highly interested in the mechanisms of thought, more technically rather then psychologically. I didn't like school very much but I do like knowing and thinking about certain things. On a daily basis I am an IT specialist on software business solutions, but as hobbies I like Algebra and AI of a more theoretical manner. So I dedicate time while smoking my tobacco pipe and reading my algebra books to thinking about the "thought machine". I am telling you all this because I am not a specialist in either AI or Mathematics so do not judge me to harsh. Anyway, after a series of thought scenarios and experiments I have concluded that there is no thought without emotion (something that I later found out to be already known by psychologists) so having that confirmed I am not going to enlist here my whole list of arguments through which I got to this conclusion, I started from the idea of having a higher level of abstraction than objects (as we do have now in OOP software development). The thing is I found out also a quote of Gottfried Leibniz that says : "Music is a hidden arithmetic exercise of the soul, which does not know that it is counting.". So I thought something like this:
    Let's say that we have the Thought as the highest level of abstraction and a thought differs from an Object by the fact that a thought defines either an action (function), property, thing, number,mode while an object is a composition of those. So when the "machine" is thinking it thinks by building up objects out of thoughts and processing them. The emotional part tells the machine if it is thinking "correctly" or "wrong", but on a more complex scale rather then true or false, just like we do, so I say that each thinking operation must create an "emotion" of a certain kind and intensity. Although the emotional mechanism must be placed outside the thinking mechanism to avoid cycles, redundancy and maintain objectivity by being out of the control of the "thinking engine" so I say, let that each operation executed by the "thinking engine" generate a musical note that the thinking machine can actually "hear" and interpret through a special receptor that can give back what we humans perceive as pleasant and unpleasant but as "melody" not as true/false or high/low , we could even use the principles of music and actual musical notes and rules. The problem that now arises is the "feeling engine" that could interpret the music. In theory we can create an morphism from the set of numbers to the set of notes and from notes to numbers (an izomorphism), this way we would have a machine that is self balancing (ex. same note played too long and too loud triggers "saturation", this way the machine can prevent entering a cycle although in time it can push forward and forward if required). This is a pretty story, not a scientific fact,but as long as it keeps me thinking about other stuff except daily problems and customers trivial needs like a stocks reports, orders,invoices etc. it's fun for me. Anyway I really do think that if I could understand why we like music or more exactly what is the mechanisms of liking/disliking music especially it could help me bring my theoretical machine forward.

    Any advice what should I read or where should I search for information on this area?
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  11. #10 Re: Why do we like music? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by taniamaria
    Why is it that we humans enjoy unwinding with an ipod, or dancing in a club? What exactly makes music appeal to us?
    I think it's part of herd instinct, music - it's just replacement for leader voice, his call. It’s help to self-identification, to make clear to yourself and others what or who you are, it's make you part of something match more bigger when just a person. You know what other people like it, you share it with them. Because of this you fill relax and happy, because of this people who love solitary life style mostly indifferent to music. :wink:
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    I wonder is at some time it offered some kind of survival advantage by help us memorize and thus pass on and socialize ways of doing things as well as passing them to our offspring. Imagine the sailers sea shanty to a rhythm allowing a group of men to haul a square sail's archor line in unison or something equivalent to coordinate pulling a large block of sandstone up a pyramid; imagine the ceromonial about celebrating the migration of a tribe or route to a good hunting ground. Musics ability to by pass our rational mind and play on our emotions strenghtens this all the more.
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  13. #12 Re: Why do we like music? 
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    Music triggers emotions in people such as happiness or anger. I would imagine this is linked simply to primitive times when sounds were related to danger or while hunting and hearing your prey or sounds of happiness from a mate. These sounds could be reinvented in tribal music stirring emotions. Monkeys obviously have not evolved to relate modern music to memories or emotions. However it would be interesting to see if they react differently to more primal music with animalistic howls or percussion mimicking footsteps.
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    listening to music mostly invoke thoughts in people as they tend to associate the rhythm and tune of music as a background support in remembering the past moments. It is also a nice lazy way of expressing one's emotions. Others may be associated with the tingling in the ears relaxing us as a massage does. or maybe it stresses out brain in a way massage stresses out body
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    There are certain combination of notes (melodies) that please our brain - for example a person who enjoys listening to Mozart can be inherently drawn by his mathematically proportional melodies and combination of notes. In essence, there is a underlying mathematical proportion to music that explains why our brain enjoys that music - music that is random, and doesn't hold these properties - we are repulsed by.
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    when stressed, parts of our brains overwork. Hence the increase in neuro activity- wavelength of the brain activity warps - brain doesn't like too much stress. Music is also in wavelength - brings about a soothing effect on the brain.
    Kinda like when you go to a charismatic church and see the people in a trance like state - it is because of the beats in the music they play...
    Also why alot of people listen to music to self - sooth...
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    http://fora.tv/fora/showthread.php?t=482 -- a documentary on rice growing in Bali in which a claim is made that ritual synchronizes emotions amongst the members of a group. Notice the use of rhythmic/repetitive sound and movement in the performance of ritual.

    (the video is also interesting for other reasons)
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    Reminds me of the rituals of religion. Interesting. Thanks for sharing.
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    I truly believe that music is man's instinctively drawn entrance into mental evolution. Music seems abstract because of it's seemingly endless diversity. Music is basically just rhythmic cycles, it's as natural to a human being as the beating of it's own heart. It's a perfect evolutionary gateway to mankind's higher thought processes which are assuredly inherent to the specie's survival.
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    Because surviving 4 million years of evolution and being at the top of the foodchain should give us some perks. Like music.
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  21. #20  
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    We like it because it makes us feel good...? Or because our brains are wired for it..? :|

    I think that, firstly, we had the urge to make sounds. What advantage could there be in this? It broadcasts the presence of us humans to any animal within earshot. Is this advantageous?

    Less importantly making sounds announces our presence to other humans. Then less importantly yet, it could communicate something besides "I'm here."
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    I personally enjoy the cello and in my perspective music gratifies / magnifies the experience of sound. We humans like it cuz it's a secondary form of language expression.
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    Quote Originally Posted by taniamaria View Post
    CultureLab: Why people indulge in cannibalism and love modern art

    There is a strong case that most pleasures we have in life are derived from basic instinct; to survive and reproduce well. For example we take pleasure in good food. Fashion is a means of attracting the opposite sex. With money comes power, status and an overall higher quality of life.

    But what of music? It has no logical link to our primitive instincts and evolution. I have actually read that monkeys do not distinguish between Mozart and heavy techno, though always choose silence if given the option. Why is it that we humans enjoy unwinding with an ipod, or dancing in a club? What exactly makes music appeal to us?
    This is a great question and one I have been wondering about for a while. I actually found a book recently that explores the mysteries behind why music is a part of human existence. It's thoroughly researched and discusses different theories around the function of music. It's called The Musical Brain by Abel James. I found it on Amazon.com here:

    The Musical Brain: The Evolution of Music, Language, and the Brain: Abel James: Amazon.com: Kindle Store

    It's only $2.99. Let me know if you check it out and what your thoughts are on it.
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    If there were some shared experience or task or event that could create a group identity, familiarize a group of people with physical cooperation or shared endeavor, teach the young how to persist in effort toward learning physical skills, aid in physical and mental development and coordination of mental with physical skill,

    all in pursuit of an essentially trivial or benign outcome, all these lessons learned without serious penalty, the group created and bonded and coordinated in advance of whatever emergency or sudden need required their coordinated response,

    then such a thing would be of great, even critical, value - a likely beneficiary of evolutionary pressure and selection, no?
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    Could it be that we do not have the capacity at this time to process the sounds that are in our enviroment constantly? So we as humans have a desire to interrupt them in some sort of music within the spectrum of our abilty to hear. It gives us pleasure to interpet these sounds to something we humans understand.
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    I have read, many years ago in some book that I can't recall the name of, (that's my way of saying I have no idea how scientifically credible it was) that hearing music triggers our own brain to modify our body rhythms to match the rhythm of music. Heart rate will adjust to match temp of the beat and stuff like that. It claimed that metabolism will increase with faster music too. It may have been some quack science weight loss book for all I can remember but it may be something that has merit, maybe if it has merit other people on this forum will know what I am talking about and be able to elaborate on it.

    as far as music being something that could be instinctual is concerned... well apes may not like human music but it doesn't mean they don't like their own. They have their own style and it may just not be recognizable to most humans. But if you ever listen to sounds of the jungle you will hear many species making their own music. It could be that apes simply prefer songs of the jungle as opposed to human music.

    if you listen to jungle noises you can almost detect a rhythm to it. And yes apes contribute their own harmonies and melodies to the songs.
    Last edited by seagypsy; November 27th, 2012 at 04:48 AM.
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    Music
    Music brings joy,
    to all of our hearts,
    It's one of those,
    emotional arts.
    Sounds of melodies,
    that we truly adore,
    Brings us pure pleasure,
    as our spirits do soar.
    Music that touches us,
    we can't help but smile,
    We're free to choose,
    genre or style.
    Music clearly,
    enlightens our days,
    Makes us happy,
    in so many ways.
    by anitapoems.com
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  28. #27  
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    Music has charms to soothe a savage breast

    Music is hard wired into our brains and permeates our totality
    we find comfort in the rhythmic crashing of the waves, or the crackling of a fire
    given a few random notes, our minds will string them together into a melody
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  29. #28  
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    The link between heartbeat and musical rhythms is obvious enough and I'm sure those play a big part in the power of music to arouse and soothe but I suspect some link to other bodily noises, the spoken voice obviously as well as the sorts that we are only aware of with eyes closed in the quietest times. Echoes of the noises of our environment too. Not an explanation for why those besides that heartbeat connection can please so powerfully.

    The engagement of mirror neurons - the mental mirroring of the actions of others - comes to mind. The engagement of memory too, as familiarity and anticipation seem to add a lot to my own responses. With new music, which usually has many familiar elements, the differences from what's anticipated to what happens adds some adrenal reactions that intensify it all. All in all it's a fantastic work-out for our brain, and even more so for a musician; that mirror neuron response, down to detailed body movements, could be very engaged. The brain's equivalent of the pleasure people get from excercising?

    Interesting question Taniamaria. Interesting responses too.
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