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April 15, 2013 1:28 AM   Subscribe

Why does music feel so good? "Music moves people of all cultures, in a way that doesn’t seem to happen with other animals. Nobody really understands why listening to music — which, unlike sex or food, has no intrinsic value — can trigger such profoundly rewarding experiences. Salimpoor and other neuroscientists are trying to figure it out with the help of brain scanners."
posted by Defying Gravity (72 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
has no intrinsic value

Isn't the power to move people music's intrinsic value?
posted by chavenet at 1:44 AM on April 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Isn't the power to move people music's intrinsic value?

Oh please, this doesn't rely on an autistic and violent interpretation of Darwin.
posted by MillMan at 1:49 AM on April 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


To paraphrase Billy Bragg in some random interview, music does not have the power to end war, but it has the power to inspire people to work towards ending war. To come together and look around and see the allies of peace are around you and you're not alone, and the world is a smaller place than you think.

I think that's the takeaway of any protest song. Or any protest.

And that may have been Billy Bragg, or it may have been Joe Strummer. But does it really matter?
posted by alex_skazat at 1:50 AM on April 15, 2013


Why does music feel so good?

Have you ever tried to have sex while listening to the farm report?
posted by Ghidorah at 1:56 AM on April 15, 2013 [13 favorites]


Ghidorah: "Why does music feel so good?

Have you ever tried to have sex while listening to the farm report?
"

I tried that once, but I got too sheepish to continue.
posted by ShawnStruck at 2:20 AM on April 15, 2013 [23 favorites]


This study once again shows that we find music rewarding, it doesn't explain why we find music rewarding. That is, the study provides evidence that the same brain areas associated with other kinds of rewarding experience are activated.

In the article linked to, it does offer some speculation as to why we find music rewarding:
"Music, she says, is an intellectual reward. “It’s really an exercise for your whole brain.”

But why would exercising your brain be rewarding? Presumably I exercise my brain quite a lot in circumstances of intense stress as well.

So then there's a view that certain 'levels' of brain processing are pleasant. But why would that be? The explanation hinted at here is that when the brain successfully predicts something, there's a reward response triggered (but it can't be too obvious- it can't be boringly predictable).

It seems somewhat analogous to when you make a risky gamble and it pays off. There's a cost-benefit situation in the brain. Predicting things is a cost for the brain. But getting it right is the benefit. Seems to me that the benefit is something like 'the acquisition of information'- even where the information is of an abstract or fictional variety. So it's not really the level of neural processing that's responsible for pleasure- the level of processing is mediating the cost-benefit equation. If little effort yields a relatively large amount of (new) information, the brain will reward us with pleasure. But why should the brain reward us for this? I suppose it could be adaptive that we are so set up. Creatures who enjoy getting lots of information tend to survive better.
posted by leibniz at 2:31 AM on April 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


Actually, it is decidedly unclear that "music" is a unified "thing" in the human brain or across cultural contexts.

All humans sing. It is the only universal "musical" fact, and in my view singing is part of language. Music as an abstraction is Pinker's "cheesecake." And hunting for it in the brain is a waste of time unless you conceptualize the task as neurolinguistic.

More than a century of music/brain research and they still can't find consonance or counterpoint.
posted by spitbull at 2:40 AM on April 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


A few years ago, Salimpoor and Zatorre performed another type of brain scanning experiment in which participants listened to music that gave them goosebumps or chills. The researchers then injected them with a radioactive tracer...

Used to be people just smoked a joint and talked about this stuff, now you have to boot up with radiioactive tracers to get the same effect. These squares are taking all the fun out of research.

The "tension and release" commonly found in musical scores is a pattern found in just about every other aspect of life and something with which the brain is pretty well-evolved to handle. Not better than sex, but rather a lot like it in some aspects.
posted by three blind mice at 2:43 AM on April 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


All humans sing. It is the only universal "musical" fact, and in my view singing is part of language. Music as an abstraction is Pinker's "cheesecake." And hunting for it in the brain is a waste of time unless you conceptualize the task as neurolinguistic.

Great, I can finally pass my farts off as neurolinguistically equivalent to whistling a tune with my butt.
posted by phaedon at 2:46 AM on April 15, 2013


Operation Ivy, "Sound System"

Duh.
posted by bardic at 2:47 AM on April 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


See what it is is that here is no money for humanistic research on music. So as a friend scrambling for grants in the UK's dreadful Brave New World of research funding said to me recently, "we are all brain scientists now."

The amount of bullshit people want o believe on this subject is keeping a lot of researchers in new laptops and beer money.
posted by spitbull at 2:48 AM on April 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


It seems as if what they should really be talking about is noise, not just music, since music is a kind of noise and most animals react in some way to noise -- even in a Darwinian way, to hunt or take flight or woo &c. In the same way that animals communicate but don't write books, they use sounds but not music (except, of course, all the animals that do use "music" like songbirds and whales and dolphins &c).
posted by chavenet at 2:48 AM on April 15, 2013


Sound. Noise is a variety of sound.

Or signal processing, to get more precise.
posted by spitbull at 2:49 AM on April 15, 2013


All further discussion is moot. Bardic is right.
posted by Ghidorah at 2:53 AM on April 15, 2013


spitbull: "Sound. Noise is a variety of sound.

Or signal processing, to get more precise.
"

Exactly. My bad. Thanks.
posted by chavenet at 2:54 AM on April 15, 2013


Hmmm...wonder what those brain scanners sound like.
posted by telstar at 3:12 AM on April 15, 2013


The amount of bullshit people want o believe on this subject is keeping a lot of researchers in new laptops and beer money.

You say that like it's a bad thing.
posted by tommyD at 3:42 AM on April 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Music moves people of all cultures, in a way that doesn’t seem to happen with other animals.

Clearly, the researchers have never played Dvorak for a bird.
posted by gjc at 3:43 AM on April 15, 2013


Music is just organised noise, and noise is poison to the mind.
posted by pompomtom at 3:45 AM on April 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's a good thing that researchers get paid. It's a bad thing when they rush to fad approaches for which they are often unqualified just to get a grant, any grant, and keep their jobs.

When you hear the words "brain" and "music" together, all I'm saying is be aware there is all kinds of bullshit going on out there, some of it at the hands of researchers who know better.

Or listen to Radiolab if you just like being bullshitted about neuro-cognitive science and the arts. Ask Jonah Lehrer. It's good work as long as you don't get caught making shit up out of whole cloth.
posted by spitbull at 4:14 AM on April 15, 2013


There is no evidence for the statement "music moves people in all cultures" if by "moves" you mean "functions equivalently and causes the same emotional responses." Generalizing modern western musical experience to the rest of humanity is always a mistake. We've known that or 100 years or so.

Recording is only 140 years old or so. Before that, "music" (Non-semantic humanly-made sound patterns with high formal redundancy) always signified the presence of other socialized human beings doing other things (ritual, especially) within close enough range to kill or befriend or escape from. Musically organized language provided benefits for memorization and projection too. Languishing in a padded chair listening in silence to a string quartet or wearing earbuds to listen to sound made thousands of miles away and years ago so you can enjoy it privately are not evolutionarily typical use cases for "music."

Think about that and then reconsider the fancy evolutionary explanations that rely on accounts of inner subjectivity or try to explain subjective experience with PET scans. Beans have never been so well plated.
posted by spitbull at 4:27 AM on April 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Aural sex?
posted by orme at 4:32 AM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Generalizing modern western musical experience to the rest of humanity is always a mistake.

Sure, but do you know of any people who don't like music?

Of course, there doesn't have to be some logical, evolutionarily advantageous reason for why we like music. As long as it's not evolutionarily disadvantageous, our enjoyment of music could be a pleasant side effect of something else going on in our brains.
posted by pracowity at 4:35 AM on April 15, 2013


Sure, but do you know of any people who don't like music?

You're on Metafilter. Those people will be by in a moment.
posted by LogicalDash at 4:40 AM on April 15, 2013 [16 favorites]


Generalizing modern western musical experience to the rest of humanity is always a mistake.

That's what they said about McDonalds.
posted by three blind mice at 4:43 AM on April 15, 2013


I don't even own an mp3 player!
posted by Elementary Penguin at 4:43 AM on April 15, 2013


Sure, but do you know of any people who don't like music?

They're your favourite band's biggest fans.
posted by MartinWisse at 4:51 AM on April 15, 2013 [12 favorites]


Generalizing modern western musical experience to the rest of humanity is always a mistake.

No, rest assured that people of all cultures agree that your favorite band sucks.
posted by louche mustachio at 4:51 AM on April 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


All humans sing. It is the only universal "musical" fact...

Rhythm?
posted by DU at 4:54 AM on April 15, 2013


Yes we know! It's nothing new - It's just a waste of time.
We have no need for ancient ways. The world is doing fine.
posted by petebest at 5:27 AM on April 15, 2013


The funk is gonna get to you baby, if you take off your sunglasses...
posted by priested at 5:37 AM on April 15, 2013


All humans sing. It is the only universal "musical" fact, and in my view singing is part of language.

For the life of me I don't know why, but you've reminded me of this clip I saw from the movie Iceman, where Timothy Hutton is this scientist who's studying this thawed-out-and-reanimated caveman. At some point Hutton starts idly singing Neil Young's "Heart of Gold" to himself, and the caveman hears and starts singing one of his own songs; it's this whole bit of schtick where Hutton stops to listen to him but the caveman urges him to keep going and then goes back to singing his own song, and so it ends up with the two of them in this weird sort of duet.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:38 AM on April 15, 2013


Lots of people hate music. An entire movement in Mali existed, in part, to murder or silence musicians and singers. And of course there are many other religious groups that reject anything other than their own devotional music. Which means they don't listen to Mogwai, which I think we can agree is insane.
posted by 1adam12 at 5:39 AM on April 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't hate music, but sometimes it hates me.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:56 AM on April 15, 2013


I suppose it's not so surprising that, at a low level, a chance combination of sensory inputs feels good for no real reason. That it's easy to generate that input by singing or hitting things instead of refining, say, drugs is handy.
posted by lucidium at 6:04 AM on April 15, 2013




no intrinsic value

Live Music Soothes Premature Babies, A New Study Finds
posted by swift at 6:28 AM on April 15, 2013


a chance combination of sensory inputs feels good for no real reason

It's always cute when materialists try to explain music, poetry, and art.
posted by foot at 6:44 AM on April 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'd rate this pretty low in the dozens of articles I've read on the subject. It's mostly Pandora bullshit until the final paragraph, when a bunch of brain areas are trotted out to sound scientific as hell.
posted by kozad at 7:00 AM on April 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


There are certain things I don't want rationally explained, and this is one of them.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:12 AM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yay! According to the song rankings, a great majority of participants were willing to put money down for my favorite band! Surely not everybody thinks they suck?

Sure, but do you know of any people who don't like music?

They're your favourite band's biggest fans.




...I'll crawl back into my hole now.
posted by idealist at 7:15 AM on April 15, 2013


The "tension and release" explanation is annoying. It is as if Newton had given up on finding physical laws and found it sufficient to say "things start moving and stop moving". That tension will build at some moments and release will happen at others is inevitable unless the piece is totally static. How about something informative?
posted by idiopath at 7:16 AM on April 15, 2013


My grandmother once told me something shocking, responding to a question about why she always stood in church with her hymnal, moving her mouth in a sort of mule-eating-an-apple version of a lip sync.

"Joe-B," she said in her slow, luxurious low country drawl, shrugging, "I jes' cain't stand the sound of music."

"Church music?"

"Music. Everyone's always playin' music, or singin' music, or listenin' to music on the radio, and I hate the sound of it."

I don't love you anymore, Mama Lyle, I thought, but that was an overstatement.

It was true, though, that I never really understood her from that point on, though I tried. It's just—music. How can anyone live without music, and by music I don't just mean the kind you hear? Maybe it's the lilt in a sharp, staccato burst of American Sign Language, or the music of movement, or the thrum of low-frequency vibrations on a street as the subway trains are rushing by under our feet.

I know I can't.

There's something at work I'd almost call the divine, if I believed in that sort of thing, but music is so integral to how my brain works that it's almost like an external storage medium for the memories that are too big to keep in the everyday files or a way of framing the impossible enormity of being.

The orgasmic, explosive, transcendent bits are the obvious and showy end of this.

The way that, even after listening to the song approximately twenty thousand times in a certain stretch of my life, the manner in which the song "2Wicky" by Hooverphonic sets the fine hairs on end and rolls my eyes back and fires those nerves that make my body radiate a million crackling fractal sparks into hyperspace in rolling waves tripped by the glissando that kicks in at 2:28—well, that's the obvious parallel.

The way "An American In Paris" surges into the soaring openness of rising and falling waves of strings and tickling percussion about three-quarters of the way through (starting at 13:35 in this recording), in a sort of acceleration towards an ecstatic plateau where the joy just keeps coming in shocks and waves, always seems to me to be a perfect summation of what I've heard female orgasm is like, though I'll concede I'm the last person to know first hand.

I can manipulate my senses and my feelings so accurately with music that it's my big not-so-secret secret in my writing in that, if I want to evoke a strong feeling in my narratives, I pick out the music that gives me that strong feeling, put it on loop, turn it up loud, let it insinuate itself into the senses and synapses until I can't think of anything else, then hit the keys. It can take me back, literally, into my own internal history, where things long forgotten are really just hidden in the ragged landscapes rendered in Fourier transforms, waiting for those moments when they're needed.

I'm probably a bit of a mystic about music, but there's a reason.

I have never been able to sustain a drug habit. I don't drink, don't smoke, and can't think of any intoxicant that's really much fun on any level, but oh my, how music can pull my strings. I have to think that maybe I'm not all that special, and that part of how it all is for me is my romantic casting of the possibility of higher states at work, but it takes nothing more than music to change my moods when they can be changed, and it's hard to resist the cues that are sent to the visceral me that lives under the fussy, obsessive, fidgety me that you meet when you meet me.

I have used music in the past month to save myself.

Exactly a month ago, someone I loved very, very much, but who was no longer a part of my day to day life, was killed in an accidental shooting, and the uncontrolled, guttural, wrenching descent into grief caught me completely by surprise. It's been, at the worst of it, like I'm trying to swim in molasses, and it just keeps coming and going in this sort of interminable ebb and flow of nostalgia, regret, and just...paralyzing defeat and disbelief. Without music, it's almost random, the way the feelings suddenly come in like a flush of poison in the blood, and I've had complete meltdowns in places where I just can't hide, curled up as far into the seat on a commuter train as I can get and still those strangled sobs are loud enough to draw attention that is the last thing in the world I want.

So I've built a playlist, and loaded it into a little player the size of a postage stamp, and it runs the range from the nostalgic of sentimental favorites to the terribly obvious and I've resigned myself to the fact that I've opted to ruin a perfectly good album that I will never be able to listen to again once this all blows over because every bit of the gloom of the last month is written into my connection with that work. I can temper the low points, let myself surrender, however briefly, to loss, smooth out the wild overcorrections, dance in the filtered light coming through the cracks, and occasionally, because it's important for me, because of how I am, not to dodge this, to just full-out glare into the darkest, saddest places and come back to now, just now.

When the feeling breaks, and it will, there's a lot of music I will never want to hear again, unless I need to come back to this place someday and write about it, and that's okay.

It's not just the ecstatic in music, the untamed, jumping, swirling, surging, lyrical, yearning, brilliant, magical wonder of it all, and how it can take us to those towering places in which we find we know exactly why we're here.

It's that it can hurt us, too, and make us lonesome, and make us feel the things we don't want to feel, because it seems like we can't. It's that it can send us careening back down our timelines into days gone by, and it can break our hearts, show us where we've done wrong to those who love us, and sometimes just capture that still, solitary feeling of being alone on a highway in the middle of nowhere. We think such things are bad, and we believe the line that we're just always meant to be happy, all the time, and to smile and be optimists and to strive for new and better things, but the route to there is so often routed straight through here. Sometimes, you just need to know where you are, and to know that someone else out there has been here, too.

For me, it isn't that it can make us feel good, and oh my, can it ever make us feel good.

It's that it can make us feel.

So I don't know that I need to know where that comes from. There's nothing I need distilled from that, to be delivered in pill form by Warner-Lambert, and nothing it can tell me about why I'm so inconsolably happy to be here and alive and blue and joyous and miserable and frustrated and clever and everything and everything and everything. Sometimes, it's tension and release, sometimes it's the slow burn, the lovely drawl, the quiet resting place beside a dry creek bed, and sometimes, it's just that accelerating sense of belonging to the universe that just builds up to this lovely fade into starlight but never leaves you, because you're here and you're amazing.

You can show me the machine room of reality, and I'll happily poke around, watching the gears meshing, and the fluids flowing, and the fuel burning and it's all a nice way to spend an afternoon, but music and what it can do exist in the realm of poetry, painting, touch, and why there's a certain color you'll see just once in a rare while in the world around you that will shape the way the whole rest of your day will go. Is there some reason why all this is so? Probably. Does it matter?

That's a good question.
posted by sonascope at 7:36 AM on April 15, 2013 [33 favorites]


Ghidorah: "Why does music feel so good?

Have you ever tried to have sex while listening to the farm report?"

I tried that once, but I got too sheepish to continue.


That was baaaaad.
posted by jonmc at 7:41 AM on April 15, 2013


According to the song rankings, I'm way more hip than most of these people, and even those creating the "new but appealing music" list. Massive Attack? Sure, it's off of their newest album and not the better known 1990's material, but come on. And Yeah Yeah Yeah's "Heads will Roll" was a (fairly popular) single from their last album. And they mixed up the track titles and band names in a few cases. Princeton is the band, and "Shout it Out (Fol Chen Remix)" is the title of #52, and "Garden" is the song, by the artist Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs.

I have never been able to sustain a drug habit. I don't drink, don't smoke, and can't think of any intoxicant that's really much fun on any level, but oh my, how music can pull my strings.

This is my experience, too. After going to a rave, my sister said she understood why I liked electronic music so much. She didn't believe me that I really, really like listening to electronic music while stone cold sober. Sometimes a really repetitive minimal techno can put me in a trance in moments. There are Czech songs where I don't understand the lyrics at all, but I'll scream my interpretation of them every time I listen to the song. I can recall other songs, and just thinking about them can put me in a state of bliss.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:46 AM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Music is just organised noise, and noise is poison to the mind.

I bet you're great at parties.
posted by asnider at 8:25 AM on April 15, 2013


A lot of the dismissive comments in this thread are fighting a straw man. None of the scientists quoted in the linked piece claim that they've found a pan-cultural explanation for why music moves us or any other such nonsense. All they claim to have done is to have shed a little light on some of the things that are going on in the brain when we hear music that pleases us. They're entirely clear that this is just a small step in what remains an immense journey of discovery.
posted by yoink at 8:52 AM on April 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Why does music feel so good?

Start here, keep an open mind ...
posted by philip-random at 8:56 AM on April 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Music is just organised noise, and noise is poison to the mind.
--
I bet you're great at parties.


Don't worry, he's just preaching to the perverted.
posted by FatherDagon at 9:31 AM on April 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Music literally ruined my life. Now I hate music. I have to put up with it, because it's f-ing EVERYWHERE, but in my own home on my own time I will never put it on. I hate the fact that it's so "Oooh universal human thing, everyone loves music". Bullshit. Give me surf sounds, birdcalls, blessed silence, anything other than some boom-twang-tweedle-bong of pretentious manipulative diarrhea shat out and rubbed in my ears by some egotistical human being.
posted by The otter lady at 9:51 AM on April 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Languishing in a padded chair listening in silence to a string quartet or wearing earbuds to listen to sound made thousands of miles away and years ago so you can enjoy it privately are not evolutionarily typical use cases for "music."

It seems pretty weird though to think the pleasure I get from doing those very things, as well as the vast difference in the kinds of pleasure I get from a Shostakovitch string quartet, a Miles Davis trumpet solo, a Van Halen guitar solo, or singing along to Parry Gripp's Baby Monkey could all be explained as accidental epiphenomena of primate bonding rituals.
posted by straight at 10:13 AM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I had a friend in high school who claimed to not like music. When I was in his car, he always had the radio set to some in-between channel that was only playing static. He said he liked the static better than any music on the channels. I found this completely incomprehensible, and maybe I still do, but something interesting happened in the 15 years since. I love music more than ever, have dug deep into it, but my musical tastes have progressed to the absurd point where I can appreciate static as its own compelling thing, with nuances and crevices to dig into - and there are some pieces of static that I find more compelling than others. Rather than static replacing music, I have musical opinions about static. So now I can see myself turning on the radio and searching out static instead of pop music, but I can't tell whether it's for the same reason as my friend, or for precisely the opposite reason. Shit's confusing.
posted by naju at 10:15 AM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


some boom-twang-tweedle-bong of pretentious manipulative diarrhea shat out and rubbed in my ears by some egotistical human being.

Non-sarcastically: this might be the most amazing generalized description of music I've ever heard! I can't even argue against it.
posted by naju at 10:24 AM on April 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


I hate the fact that it's so "Oooh universal human thing, everyone loves music". Bullshit.

the otter lady, you're on the wrong planet, probably in the wrong universe. By which I mean (and I don't say this much), you're WRONG.

some boom-twang-tweedle-bong of pretentious manipulative diarrhea shat out and rubbed in my ears by some egotistical human being.

although this is a pretty apt description of some of so-called music I hate. But, of course, that isn't music. It's exactly what you say it is, "pretentious manipulative diarrhea shat out and rubbed in my ears by some egotistical human being." That's not music.

Music literally ruined my life.

Maybe you could elaborate.
posted by philip-random at 10:55 AM on April 15, 2013


Jarvis Cocker takes a shot at this question in "Big Questions from Little People" and the answer is about as satisfactory, that is, not at all.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:15 AM on April 15, 2013


I love watching what music does to people, when they seem to be spontaneously compelled by the fun of it. Here, an older man and a woman police officer give in to the impulse of the bliss.
posted by nickyskye at 12:17 PM on April 15, 2013


Nobody really understands why listening to music — which, unlike sex or food, has no intrinsic value

Your assumption is bad, and you should feel bad.
posted by Celsius1414 at 1:42 PM on April 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


The notion of things having no intrinsic "value" in evolutionary terms is always a bit suspect to me as a non-reproducing member of my species who's had to explain roughly one bazillion times what being gay is for. Music, on the other hand, is comparatively easy to explain if one has already cleared that hurdle.
posted by sonascope at 2:38 PM on April 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


some boom-twang-tweedle-bong of pretentious manipulative diarrhea shat out and rubbed in my ears by some egotistical human being.

Sounds like someone was raised being forced to listen to 12-tone rows.
posted by Twang at 4:30 PM on April 15, 2013


The otter lady, those plucky kids are going to have their dancin' prom even if they have to cross the town line to do it!
posted by 1adam12 at 8:16 PM on April 15, 2013


Oh sure, if someone implies they don't enjoy food, or sex, they get at least some attempts at understanding. But hate music? SHUN THE NONBELIEVER!!

If I'd said “I hate 'art', I don't see why I should want to have a bunch of paintings on my walls, I have photos of my family, vacation snaps to remind me of good times, but I sure don't see the point in putting up some artist's wankstain of an 'impression' and -looking- at it and pretending it -means- something,”

-- or if I'd said,“I hate reading fiction, I don't want to waste my time reading a bunch of bullshit lies some 'author' is feeding me. I want to learn something real or I won't bother making my eyes move across the page”

... you would probably see my point, even if you didn't agree with it. And yet visual art and storytelling are at least as ancient to humanity as music, but for some reason MUSIC gets this big worshipful Smurf-shagging love-fest and is somehow inviolate. If you don't like music you might as well hand in your Human Being card, which, frankly, I'd be happy to do. (Can I still keep my paintings and stories?)

I'm not out to ban music. I'm certainly not going to try and stop anyone from enjoying it. But I'm just going to stick my hand up and say I, for one, hate the entire art form and do my best to avoid it. (And I do resent how hard that is. If you hate dogs, it's not impossible to avoid ever having to touch one... But hate music? Well, if you can live as a hermit, you might be safe from ever hearing it. I'm still working on that life goal.)

As for belonging on a different planet or universe, well, I do get that a lot. I also dislike babies. So.... (shrug)
posted by The otter lady at 9:10 PM on April 15, 2013


I recently agreed with a friend (thought it was only me!) that if I don't listen to music for a while, I get depressed. One day last year I had been severely depressed and I realized I hadn't listened to music in a while. I put some on and felt a lot better. Not all better, but a lot.
posted by IndigoRain at 9:31 PM on April 15, 2013


Dear The otter lady, I can't stand dogs (or rather, I can't stand the whole domesticated pet construct w/r/t the simultaneous privilege afforded to them when people are dying of hunger but which seems rooted in the usual default American culture of excess but ALSO the specific seemingly willful agnosia about why anyone could possibly be averse to your dirty slavering beast that seems to have been both bred and SOCIALIZED to be annoying specifically to the type of hygiene-oriented third-worlder that I am, and where the culturally ignorant response is 'oh he doesn't bite' with the kind of hapless brain-cog-stopping disbelief about any other reasons enumerated as to why get your dog the fuck away from me, the kind of ignorant privileged attitude that specifically White people wouldn't ever have when it comes to their CHILDREN for fuck's sake).

So don't you try to tell ME I can avoid dogs in America.

I understand your whole thing with music, and I feel lucky that my thing is the opposite of your thing. You know how sonascope up there wrote about music as a mystical experience? Shit, as far as I'm concerned, that doesn't even come CLOSE to how I feel about the whole thing (although I will say, psychoactive substances do seem to contribute to certain aspects of the experience while never detracting anything). I've been disappointed so consistently when it comes to talking about the experience, even with people who may be pretty knowledgeable about the whole thing or ostensibly 'into' music that my ultimate disappointed go-to line, not uttered since early college days but felt all the same is - "okay, but clearly, my love of music is purer than yours."

P.S. that whole baby thing is somehow connected to the dog thing, as far as Americans are concerned, but I have yet to have a fully-formed argument surface about why that is so, except in the vague but obvious sense of dogs-as-kid-surrogates for people too emotionally impoverished to understand the difference.
posted by legospaceman at 10:27 PM on April 15, 2013


Dear sonascope, I am going to stripmine the fuck out of your youtube links, thanks. I feel like I am severely deprived of the experience of being able to share music one on one with someone who is equally passionate about it, regardless of specific tastes. I think if you love music, then you love music, and not that one kind of music or that one kind of structure or even that one voice. There's nothing in music, from screamo to nerdrap to Western classical to old-world traditional to noise, that is abrasive or grating, no matter at what level I'm engaging with it. I think the only time I come close to aversion is when it's very plastic and trope-filled and generic and no synapses are firing because of how predictable the whole thing is, or if it's severely repetitive.
posted by legospaceman at 10:58 PM on April 15, 2013


The otter lady, I'm getting your rage and frustration, but not your reasoning. I'm honestly quite interested to know WHY you hate music so much? No particular genres mentioned, no exceptions. You HATE it all, uncategorically.

Even Merzbow?
posted by philip-random at 11:39 PM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Legospaceman, I did not realize you lived in a part of America where you were forced to pat a dog before having your phone call answered, or where shadowy agents shoved a Pomeranian into your arms at the doorway of any retail establishment. You have my sympathies.
posted by The otter lady at 1:06 AM on April 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


The otter lady is right. Have your transcendental mystical experiences all you want, but remember that everyone else is being forced to have them whether they want them or not. It sucks.

I like music, I make music (more Merzbow like at times, less so others).

And I get really tired of the default and constant presence of music that somebody else chose.

Music is intimate and identity forming and should be participatory and intense. And it is utterly unacceptable to force intimate and intense and identity forming experiences on people against their will.
posted by idiopath at 2:26 AM on April 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


And even worse, really meaningful mystical transcendant stuff is constantly being used to sell, like, clothes and dishpans and tech gadgets. Don't you dare push that one Arthur Russell track for your consumerist brand identity lifestyle pitch.
posted by naju at 6:33 AM on April 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh sure, if someone implies they don't enjoy food, or sex, they get at least some attempts at understanding. But hate music? SHUN THE NONBELIEVER!!

Erm, I don't think anyone is reacting to your dislike of music, but rather people are reacting more to the claim that it "literally ruined your life". I'd also like some more details on that myself, to be frank, but only out of sincere puzzlement as to how that is possible.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:58 AM on April 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


but rather people are reacting more to the claim that it "literally ruined your life".

reminds me of a couple of fellow DJs back in the 80s, both of whom eventually revealed to me that they'd been raised in musically intense homes. That is, they were being groomed from very early ages to be serious musicians with piano lessons etc kicking in before they were in kindergarten. One of them, call him Carl, eventually rejected it all in Junior High to his parents extreme chagrin. The other, call him Harry, didn't bail until well into his twenties by which point he'd taken his studies to a high academic level in England. Indeed, it was a battle with a cancer that almost killed him which finally triggered his rejection.

So what were they doing being DJs?

Playing the most intense NOISE they could find, including Merzbow.
posted by philip-random at 9:18 AM on April 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Y'all must get out more than I do. The only time I get bad music forced on me is at friends' houses. :D

Interesting that there's no consideration of lyrical content. While (maybe) not quite as important as they were when I was 12, they're still essential to my enjoyment of most pop and pop-related (folk, punk, country, r&b, hiphop, metal) music.

Just this morning, I was listening to ... "Everyone can see what's going on. They laugh cuz they know they're untouchable, not because what I said was wrong." which is like, RIGHT ON, sister.

Or when, you know, I'm "Feeling like I'm a high schooler, sipping on a warm wine cooler ..." um.

♫♪♪♫

CLEANSE

♪♫♫♪

All I'm saying is the music ^^ is great all by itself, but I wouldn't like it nearly as much if there were no singing or if the lyrics were elizabethfraseresque gibberish.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:49 AM on April 16, 2013


...somatic participation in pattern recognition.

Birds do it, but nobody knows why. Sparrows sing in dialects....a man in Seattle who knows these songs can tell you, off hand, if the sparrow is from, say, the Bronx, or Yokohama, or Salt Lake City. Drums are music. Some people in the old country (somewhere on the African continent) sing over long distances using their drums: syntax, grammar, subtlety. Some languages can be whistled. No doubt about it, that the body responds, and so does the meat thing in the skull: can't figure it out exactly, but some qualitative movement happens.

Wave-lengths and timing. Two different things. The human ear can do what the human mind won't understand: discord, harmony, the beat frequency that amplifies a pure tone. A series of tones can make chicken skin rise on your arm, never mind the lyrics, but then lyrics, with their magical perceptual ambushes, bring the scent of a lover's breath briefly into focus, and it takes a few minutes before you can place the shadowy, fleeting visage into your timeline somewhere. Brutal clarity, and you are back at your desk--but for an instant, you were there!

If you don't have music I don't mind, but I don't want to live there. I don't even care if someone figures out how my lizard brain hooks up with my endocrine system every time the band starts playing, and releases all those little endorphins into my bloodstream. Explain away. I have noticed that music comes in flavors, and there's no accounting for taste. Okay, maybe there will be, sooner or later, and you can tell me what all the republicans will be playing on their stereos, and what sort of stuff I'll want to hear on mine. Don't matter. Don't care. All that belongs to a pay grade far above mine.

Music, though. Don't know what it is. Don't really even know what it does. I'm pretty sure it's good for something.

Now, about them drums.....
posted by mule98J at 10:19 AM on April 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


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