Music as Life’s Narrator

What is the soundtrack of your life?

Even for those of us who don’t pay much attention to the hottest bands of the month, music still exists in our peripheries..and in our psychies.

Try this..if you were born in the 50’s or 60’s you probably have a particularly visceral and emotional response to these songs

or 60’s & 70’s?

or born in the 70’s & 80’s?

Most, if not all of us could probably tell the stories of our lives simply by playing the music we chose to listen to at that time; childhood hope..teen angst and insecurity..young adult disillusionment..and so on.

The attraction of the mix tape is essentially the inclination to package and express hopes and experiences in our lives, through music. I know my generation spent countless hrs. on bedroom floors pressing the record button on 2 deck cassette players. But each generation has their own version of musical storytelling, whether it be record collections or personalized Pandora stations.

But why is it that music resonates so deeply through our life experiences?

It turns out that music essentially has it’s own biology. Although the right hemisphere of the brain is often associated with creativity, studies show that neuro-pathways in the brain respond to music in both hemispheres. In fact both sides are essential for the accurate perception of musical components such as rhythm.

The biology of music effects us viscerally as well. The reason you want to shake it in response to music is because the human brain activates it’s movement centers as part of its neurological response. It really is unnatural to be stuck in your chair at a great show- formalities of the venue or not.

Other studies have shown that music affects the emotional centers of the brain- although that process is not entirely understood yet. Medical studies have shown however that this connection can help patients lower blood pressure, increase the efficiency of oxygen delivery to the heart, help dyslexics read more easily, & help premature babies gain weight faster.

Whether we understand all the connections yet or not, one thing is clear..we are hard wired to experience and process music in our lives.

Mark Jude Tramo, a Harvard neuroscientist, believes the explanation becomes clear when we take in to account that dance and music preceded verbal language in human evolution. In fact, there have been no cultures discovered in human history without archaeological evidence of a role for music.

But after all the analysis what does this all really mean for you? Keep rocking- your brain needs it.

-MJ Hecox

Reference: Music on the brain: Researchers explore the biology of music By William J. Cromie, Harvard Gazette