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nikipedia's avatar

Why is music so pleasurable?

Asked by nikipedia (27481points) December 30th, 2010

More than just being pleasurable, music seems to have the ability to influence our mood powerfully in a lot of different directions—it sets the tone for every movie and TV show, it can energize your workout dramatically, and as far as I know, it’s found in every culture throughout history around the world.

Why might this be the case, and how does music accomplish this range of experiences?

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13 Answers

marinelife's avatar

I think it vibrates at the same wavelength as our brains. Music is a mathematical expression.

AmWiser's avatar

I agree 100%. Maybe because its been here since the beginning of time:-)

josie's avatar

Ayn Rand, toward the end of her life, acknowledged that appreciation of certain musical harmonies and melodies might be intrinsic to the human consciousness.
A huge consession on her part.
I think it is true.

Blackberry's avatar

@marinelife I like that. : )

I think music is another form of communication, not just to others, but to ourselves. Internal dialogue is the phrase I’m looking for. Music is/can be a way to express the thoughts in our brains. Sometimes, music is just as unexplainable as life it seems.

Sometimes I feel like such a hippie when I’m alone swaying back and forth or nodding my head, or just brooding to some deep music.

wundayatta's avatar

People are often trying to change their consciousness. Music changes consciousness. It takes you out of your head and into some other kind of place where thoughts just don’t exist. Music is the most basic form of communication, and it probably existed long before speech was invented. It may even be one of the important factors that lead to the development of consciousness (I just made that up, but it seems likely to me).

Music is fundamental to being a human. We can all distinguish patterns from randomness and music is all about patterns. We find it in everything—every sound. Not all the sounds are pretty. Some are quite frightening. But they are all music. Music is the meaning in sound; the meaning that is felt, not thought.

Odysseus's avatar

Om. (Aum)
It is believed that the whole universe, in its fundamental form, is made up of vibrating, pulsating energy.

Odysseus's avatar

@josie , thanks for introducing me to Ayn Rand.

mattbrowne's avatar

Because of our brains’ reward systems, not unlike enjoying sex our gourmet chocolate. Music has a similar effect.

Axemusica's avatar

Time is the key phrase here. Everything seems to sway back and forth in the bosom of the rhythmic tones of time. Music is time based. Reflection is looking back chronologically, it can also be coherently. Music is all around us too. Wind chimes on the front porch swaying in the breeze. Birds bringing joy to the early morning, as if to be so joyful the sun risen once again. Wolves howling at the moon, I’m not sure why they do it, but it is a majestic and beautiful thing to listen to. The deafening sound of thousands of crickets tuning their mating call.

I would even go as far as to say, one day, music may be able to define the age old question. What is the meaning of life?

Mammoth's avatar

Plugin some headphones and listen to Cherry by Ratatat, the comeup near the end makes my mind feel so goddamn happy. Feels like a warm sensation of happiness flowing over my brain. Ratatat is absolutly amazing. Lex and Loudpipes are great songs too. Bump it!
I think people need to feel the music more. I can recognize every little detail and flow, I let it flow through my soul. I love music.

No, I’m not high.

Yet. :)

Jeruba's avatar

I’ve been pondering this question since it was asked. It’s been bothering me because I felt that it was wrongly focused somehow, as if it had been asked backwards, but the reason didn’t come clear to me for several days.

Not to criticize your question, @nikipedia, of course!—it raises an interesting thought. But here’s why I think its direction is reversed. It’s because music (which I define as organized sound) does not precede but follows our response to it. That is, unlike natural beauties such as sunsets and mountains and rivers, music is a human product. And so it was our pleasure response that created it and not the other way around. We invented and developed music under the guidance of that pleasure response, and so we created it the way it is (and not some other way) precisely because that’s what gives us pleasure. If it didn’t affect us in this way, it either wouldn’t exist or would be something else altogether.

hotgirl67's avatar

Music stimulates the endorphins in the brain which are what make us feel good.

wundayatta's avatar

Actually, @Jeruba, it’s both. It’s a feedback cycle. I am part of a class with live music and dance. It’s all improvised. We (the musicians) start, and then the dancers dance to the music, but pretty soon, we use them as our “music” (as in sheet music), and we take our cues from what they are doing. Then it becomes very unclear as to whether we are playing them, or they are playing us.

I think it has always been thus. Writ large, you see it in the dance between musical trends and the public and what music they purchase.

There is pleasure both ways—as listener and as creator. As dancer and as musician. Music never existed in a vacuum. It has always been in relationship with people in various ways. There is no way to answer the chicken and egg question here. They affect each other in a way that has no beginning or end.

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