It is evening, after a long day at work. Earphones to my ears, I play my favorite piece of music: Johannes Brahms’s second piano concerto. The solemn horn solo in the first two measures flows into the soft crescendo of a piano chord. A rush of memories floods into my mind: pictures of a seashore; somewhere nonexistent, pearly sand particles, flickering with each embracing wave, turning into sapphire; sketches from my childhood; poetic, yet heart-aching images of the days I didn’t want to remember, yet, I accept it with an open heart. The conclusion of a particular movement takes my breath away. The pianist gradually increases the tempo and volume and completely expends his energy. I feel a tingling down my spine.
We have all probably at one time or another experienced this sort of thrill from music. When music causes one of these “skin orgasms,” the self-reward mechanisms of the limbic system—the brain’s emotional core—are active, as is the case when experiencing sexual arousal, eating or taking cocaine.
It is conceivable that such self-reward helped to lead ancient peoples to make music. Humans were already constructing the first music-making tools more than 35,000 years ago: percussive instruments, bone flutes and jaw harps. Since then, music, like language, has been part of every culture across the globe.
Some researchers believe that music also conveys a practical evolutionary advantage: it aids in the organization of community life and in the forging of connections among members of one group when disagreements occur with another. Consider forms such as lullabies, work songs for spinning or harvest time, and war marches. In recent decades, youths listen to and play certain types of music as a means of identification and to set themselves apart from other groups, or even to portray their personality.
Still, many questions remain. What happens in the brain when we listen to music? Are there special neural circuits devoted to creating or processing it? Why is an appreciation for music nearly universal?
The study of music as a major brain function is relatively new, but researchers are already working on the answers.
For me, and in the meantime, the answer is very easy. Music is a language to communicate with “something” or “someone” very much greater than myself, within myself or outside of my being, it is the medicine for most “sicknesses”, and it’s the only place on this earth where I can find peace, real inner peace.
Image Source: creative gaga/BlackRedPink
Reference: Scientific American