Yesterday night I had the dubious pleasure of watching a horror movie called “The Descent”. Although the plot is mediocre at best, I couldn’t help sitting on the couch hanging on to whatever was within reach. Scene upon scene, the dark filming was underlined by dark music that would turn any holiday video into a rendition of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”. So, what really scared me in this movie was not what I saw, but what I heard. Deciding to experiment, I sat down on the couch and watched a couple of scenes without sound, and my fear had all but disappeared. So, what is the incredible power of music?
As far as 30000years ago, humans were creating music with bone flutes and percussion instruments and still today Babies instinctively turn towards pleasant sounds and away from dissonant music. So, it is safe to say that music is important to us. Yet, what happens in the brain when we listen to music, and what happens to our state?
When you are listening to music, many different areas of the brain respond to the perceptual and emotional aspects of music, and your brain alters itself to respond more strongly to music that has come to be meaningful to you. This means that sound processing in the brain is more than just simple telephone relaying, we actively re-tune the brain so that more cells respond best to behaviourally significant sounds. That is why we can hear a piece of music we like in a very noisy room, simply because we trained ourselves to listen out for it!
Recently, they decided to scan the brains of several musicians who would experience strong emotional reactions while listening to music. They found that the zones activated through the music were the same pleasure zones that were activated by food, sex and addictive drugs. So, what does all this mean?
Strange as it may be, it means that music is more than just background entertainment. Hollywood has long ago realized this, and only now is science catching up: Findings indicate that music has a biological basis and that the brain has a functional organization for music. Doubtful? Watch a horror movie without sounds, and you will see how much power music has, or maybe you are content just putting on that CD which will always connect you to….